MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. --
The Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots program is well known for helping less fortunate children throughout the United States by giving them new, unwrapped gifts during the Christmas holiday season.
Toys for Tots began in 1947, when Major Bill Hendricks, a member of the United States Committee for Refugees, and a group of Marine Reservists in Los Angeles collected and distributed 5,000 toys to needy children in the area.
To this day, Marines continue to collect and distribute toys and other items to kids around the nation.
First Sergeant Bobby L. Barnett, site first sergeant for the Inspector-Instructor staff at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune’s Stone Bay, has ran the local Toys for Tots drive for the past two years and has helped many families.
Barnett’s team of Marines and local businesses wrapped up its 2009 Toys for Tots campaign with better results than the region’s previous year.
“Last year the drive collected 25,000 toys in addition to 25,000 books and bikes,” said Barnett.
The region Barnett and his Marines helped consisted of seven counties: Craven, Carteret, Duplin, Jones, Lenior, Onslow and Pamlico.
This year the region collected more than 33,000 toys in addition to the other collected items that were distributed. More than 61,000 toys, books and bikes were given to those ranging from infants to children 15-years old and younger.
“Even though Toys for Tots is a Marine Corps Reserve program, active duty Marines from across the U.S. lend a helping hand in order to make the holidays a special time for the kids of our nation,” said Barnett.
Barnett said Craven County used six different distribution sites and delivered 10,000 toys to 2,100 children.
Marines and civilians volunteered at numerous sites to assist families in loading gifts in vehicles and handing out gifts.
“I loved volunteering for the Toys for Tots program,” said Irene Tanner, a senior at Richlands High School. “It makes me feel good that it is such a great charity for the children and families in need.”
Barnett thanked civilian and Marines for their volunteer work in collecting and delivering toys to the distribution sites.
“We try to recognize the efforts of those who supported our drive and the distribution agencies,” said Barnett.
In order for families to benefit from the Toys for Tots drive, they needed to file an application with a distributing agency within their county, said Barnett.
“The intent is for families, who are having financial difficulties, to receive toys,” said Barnett. “We also have been able to help families involved in tragic events, like home fires and other natural disasters.”
“We know that with each toy handed out, there will be excitement and happiness brought by the Marines’ hard work and the generosity of the community,” said Barnett. “The season is about giving, and we are the link between the good will of communities and children who might not have something to open for Christmas. Thankfully there are many others who help in the process as well.”