MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. -- Pfc. Holly Hanks, a student at the Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training Marine Unit Cherry Point, never knew how financially stressed her family was when she was a child. Her mother made sure she had clothes and other essentials.
When she moved to Kansas with her father, stepmother and sister at age 15, Hanks said she began to realize how rough things were.
“I remember sometimes I could not eat at home,” Hanks said. “I’d only get to eat at school because there was no food in our house.”
Christmas time was especially stressful. Hanks said she remembers her stepmother coming home crying for fear that she would not be able to provide a real Christmas for Hanks’ younger sister.
If it wasn’t for the Toys for Tots program, this fear may have become a reality.
Hanks said she and her sister were beneficiaries of Toys for Tots as children, and she jumped at the chance to volunteer to collect toys for the program at the 4th Annual WRNS Guitar Pull concert at the air station theater Nov. 14.
“I jumped out of formation when they asked who wanted to participate,” Hanks said. “I come from a very poor family, and I remember a couple Christmases where my little sister and I would not have had anything if it weren’t for Toys for Tots.”
Four other dress blues-clad CNATT Marine students volunteered alongside Hanks to support the toy drive through the Cherry Point Single Marine Program.
Pfc. Jessica Hardy, one of the students, said what drove her was showing her gratitude to a welcoming community.
“I’ve only been here a couple of weeks, and the community has been great to me,” Hardy said. “I just wanted to give back.”
For other students, the opportunity to help a child was all the drive they needed.
“It’s awesome to give to those in need,” said Pfc. Frank Natal. “Any opportunity to make a kid smile is great.”
Staff Sgt. Vincent Sicilia, the Toys for Tots coordinator for seven counties in North Carolina, said the hard work that these Marines put into the program is worth every minute in light of the good they do.
“I do it all just knowing that the hard work and long hours are worth it,” Sicilia said. “It’s all for the children who are truly in need at Christmas time, as well as the looks of gratitude on their families’ faces.”