Last year in the Wiregrass, 11,887 toys were distributed to 1,031 children thanks to the efforts of the United States Marine Corps Reserves.

Children from Coffee, Dale, Geneva, Henry and Houston Counties are the beneficiaries of the area chapter of the Toys for Tots Program, run under the direction of Marine Reservist Maj. Bill Cox.

Cox and Marine Corps Recruiter Sgt. Baylen Jones were in Enterprise Nov. 20 as Westgate Shopping Center welcomed the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association and the Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club whose members rode into the shopping center bearing Christmas gifts for the children.

“We are collecting new, unwrapped toys for the Toys for Tots program to distribute as Christmas gifts to children who may not have the opportunity of receiving gifts,” said Cox. “The primary goal is to deliver—through a shiny new toy at Christmas—a message of hope to these children and to motivate them to grow into patriotic citizens and community leaders.

The mission of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program is to collect new, unwrapped toys during October, November and December each year and to coordinate distribution of those toys to children in the community in which the campaign is conducted.

“Your donation to the Marine Toys for Tots Program is critical and very much appreciated,” Cox told the the motorcycle club members. “It's our mission to make sure that all children experience the magic of Christmas.

“This means starting our toy collection right away and your donation today greatly supports that effort,” he added. “Your gift will make a tremendous impact for children.”

Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, an IRS recognized 501(c)(3) not-for-profit public charity is the fund raising, funding and support organization for the U. S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program.

Toys for Tots began in 1947 as the brain child of Marine Corps Reserve Major Bill Hendricks and his wife, Diane, who asked her husband to deliver handcrafted dolls to an agency that supports children in need.

When Bill Hendricks reported back to his wife that he could not find such an organization, she encouraged him to start one. He and the Marines in his reserve unit in Los Angeles, Calif., collected and distributed 5,000 toys in 1947. Seeing such successful community engagement in 1947, the U.S. Marine Reserve Commandant directed all Marine Reserve sites to implement a Toys for Tots national campaign in 1948.

In Coffee County, the program is administered by the Coffee County Family Services Center and CCFSC Executive Director Judy Crowley. In Dale County, the program is administered by the Mary Hill Family Resource Center and Executive Director Paige Knight.

Those interested in making a donation or obtaining a list of drop off points in each county, are asked to dial 2-1-1 or call (888) 421-1266 between the hours of 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. A Wiregrass 2-1-1 call specialist will provide the county-specific information.

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