By Johnny Jackson
U.S. Marine Corps veterans, Steve Camp and Bill King, were prepared for a day of lifting and loading to ensure that needy children would have toys and games this Christmas, through the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program.
"This is my way of giving back," said Lance Cpl. Milton Thomas, of the Marine Corps Detachment at Dobbins Air Reserve Base. "When I was growing up, I didn't have that 'Hollywood Christmas' we see on television ... So, I want to see that children have a Christmas."
Thomas and members of the Marine Corps League McDonough Detachment 1339, including Camp and King, packed more than 2,000 toys into vehicles. The vehicles were used to collect toys at different sites around metro Atlanta and deliver them to a Lawrenceville warehouse for distribution to needy children, according to Kelly Wilson, the drop site and communications coordinator for Toys for Tots, Atlanta and North Atlanta.
"To date, there have been 590,000 toys distributed to needy families in Georgia," said Wilson, noting that the program had 63 orders to fill by Tuesday evening.
Wilson estimates that thousands of toys were collected throughout the Southern Crescent in support of the Toys for Tots Program, which has been in place since 1947.
The Atlanta Toys for Tots web site tells the story of Marine Corps Maj. Bill Hendricks, who, with the inspiration of his wife, Diane, helped organize a group of Marine Reservists in Los Angeles to collect and distribute 5,000 toys to needy children. Over the past 56 years, the web site notes, Marines have distributed more than 313 million toys to 151 million children.
"This is a feel-good thing," said Commandant Tom Oakes, of the Marine Corps League McDonough Detachment 1339.
The grandfather of 10 said the local community has been supportive of the Detachment's efforts to serve as a partner in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve-sponsored program. He pointed to the Detachment's Sr. Vice Commandant Bonita Johnson, who has spent the better part of six weeks organizing collections at dozens of locations in the Southern Crescent.
Johnson and Wilson took part in obtaining cooperation and donations from local businesses, such as Action Limousines in Stockbridge. The professional chauffeur-services company provided three vehicles, one of which was a Stretch Hummer, for Toys for Tots volunteers to use Tuesday.
"We're excited about being here," said Clarence Carr, owner of Action Limousines. "It was our pleasure to donate our time and vehicles to this great cause, and very humbling to see that even in one of [the] worst economic years, that many others came together and donated [these] toys. I only wish I could share the joy on the faces of the children who will receive them, as well."
Doug Coker, Jr., co-owner of North Henry Storage in Stockbridge, donated space for the toys to be stored through Tuesday. Coker, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran of Desert Storm, said the donation was the least his company could provide to the cause.
"Times are tough right now, and I think the best thing we could give is our time and whatever else we can," said Coker. "Semper Fi -- Always Faithful."