Santa’s helpers sometimes wear Dress Blues

December 17, 2018 - 1:19 pm
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Santa’s helpers sometimes wear Dress Blues.

At the Marine Corps Toys for Tots warehouse in Fredericksburg, Va., active duty service members, veterans and members of the community came together to ensure that needy children get to experience some holiday cheer.

Gunnery Sgt. Mack Stuckey, who is marking his second year as Toys for Tots coordinator for the Quantico Marine Corps Base campaign, said as soon as the doors to the warehouse opened dozens of volunteers poured in to sort and assemble toys, including a group of soldiers who traded good-natured inter-service jabs with their Marine comrades hours before the big Army-Navy Game.

“We joined forces for one joint effort,” Stuckey said. “They volunteered for a few hours, helped us count toys and helped us put together some toys.”

The warehouse serves as a major distribution center for Toys for Tots in the metro Washington, D.C. area. Inside, toys are sorted based on the age and sex of the children who will be receiving them this holiday.

“We’ve got one mission,” Stuckey said. “This was established in 1947 and it was something that just happened. There was no big plan. Marines saw there was a need within the community for this type of campaign.”

To contact your local Toys for Tots campaign, click here.

History of Toys for Tots

Toys for Tots, which began in 1947, was the brainchild of Reserve Maj. Bill Hendricks and his wife, Diane. During the holiday season that year, Diane made dolls and asked her husband to deliver them to needy children.

When Bill couldn’t find an organization that could comply with his wife’s request, she urged him to start one. Bill and the Marines in his unit got busy, collecting and distributing 5,000 toys that year themselves. The Marine commandant was so impressed by their effort that he directed all Marine Reserve units to begin a TFT campaign, transforming it into a national campaign in 1948.

“In the Marine Corps, we’re all about tradition,” Stuckey said. “We need to do our part to make sure this gets bigger and better every year.”

Here’s a little Toys for Tots trivia: Do you know who designed the iconic TFT logo? Walt Disney himself. As a civilian, Bill Hendricks was public relations director for Warner Bros. and tapped many of his celebrity friends to help with the program. Disney designed the train logo as a personal favor to his friend, Hendricks.

Ensuring that every child has some Christmas joy

Marine Staff Sgt. Eric Grossmann had his 1-year-old daughter Rayland strapped to his chest as he and his 7-year old daughter Delilah helped sort toys.

“The Marine Corps is partnering with the community. It's a wonderful thing and we get so much out of it,” he said.

Although there appeared to be plenty of toys on hand inside the warehouse to meet holiday wish lists, Stuckey said that last year the program ran out of toys before it ran out of children to serve.

Click here to learn how to make a donation to Toys for Tots.

Former Navy corpsman and Stafford County firefighter Scott Elliott is hopeful that won’t be the case this year.

“This is definitely one of our corps values right here and is integrated between the Navy-Marine Corps and Stafford Fire Department.  It’s really giving back to our community,” he said. “It’s good to know that we are able to meet the needs of the community.”

Julia LeDoux

Donated toys fill boxes inside the Toys for Tots warehouse in Fredericksburg, Va.

Juanita Herring, a two-year volunteer at the warehouse, knows first-hand what it’s like to wonder if there will be presents under the tree for her children.

“I have been in a situation where I have been sick and unable to work full-time and needed help,” the mom of 4 said. “I was able to have a family adopt me and my children for Christmas.”

Herring said she is forever grateful for the help she received and is only too happy to pay it forward by giving of her time to Toys for Tots.

“We were able to give back this year and last year,” she said. “It feels wonderful. These toys are kids dreams and wishes.”

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