Local groups to help make Christmas special for some needy youngsters
But inside those armorplated bodies beats a heart as soft as a marshmallow.
Look no further than the Toys for Tots program, run by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve since 1947.
Locally, approximately $850 worth of toys have recently been collected by the Lindale Order of the Eastern Star No. 1147 and the Lindale Masonic Lodge No. 848 and donated to the Toys for Tots program.
He was on hand this past week when representatives of the Order of the Eastern Star and the local Masonic Lodge presented the toys for the program.
Others on hand included Worshipful Master Jack Brown, Worthy Matron Cindy Reeves, Imogene Kimberley, Pattie Kelley, Clyde Kelley, Pat Martin, Pat Pilgrim, Ken Reeves and Les Tew.
“ W e wanted to give a special “thank you’’ to Anita Jackson, manager of the Big Lots on Broadway (in Tyler) for opening her store early for us,’’ said Reeves.
IN THE BEGINNING
In 1947 in Los Angeles, U.S.M.C. Reserve Major William Hendricks’ wife tried to donate a homemade doll to a needy child but couldn’t find an organization to take the doll.
Working on her suggestion, Major Hendricks called together a group of local Marine reservists, who then collected some 5,000 toys for local children from bins placed outside Warner Bros. movie theaters.
This proved so successful that the next year the Toys for Tots campaign went national.
As director of public relations for Warner Brothers, he was able to enlist celebrity support for the program as well as getting Walt Disney Studio artists to design the red toy train logo.
“Once people involved see how grateful the people are to receive these toys you can’t help but want to stay involved,’’ Hamby said.
A retired Master Sergeant, Hamby began his association with the program in 1956 while in Houston.
Toys that weren’t new were refurbished, Hamby said.
“We used to take bikes, trikes and other types of toys to Huntsville (for prisoners to work on) by the trailer load,’’ Hamby recalled. “When we got them back they sure did shine and sparkle.’’ By 1980, however, it was determined that only new toys would be accepted, since reservists couldn’t dedicate enough hours to work on the toys.
In 1996, many communities didn’t have a Marine reservist presence. The commander of the Marines Forces Reserve authorized Marine Corps League detachments and other local organizations to fill the gaps in the collection and distribution of toys.
Hamby’s region includes Tyler and Mineola.
“There’s a lot of work involved to account for every toy and every penny that is donated,’’ he said.
To date, more than 500,000,000 toys have been collected and distributed.