VFW Toys for Tots Sets Record
The Southern Pines Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7318 and its men's auxiliary hosted a Christmas barbecue with Santa toy collection on Sunday, Dec. 9.
The event benefited the Sandhills Detachment 1001 of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program and the Sandhills Food Bank in memory of VFW men's auxiliary member and longtime Southern Pines business owner Mark Westbrook, who had been heavily involved in the program locally for many years before he died.
The primary goal of Toys for Tots is to deliver, through a new toy at Christmas, a message of hope to less fortunate youngsters that will assist them in becoming responsible, productive, patriotic citizens, a news release said. The principal Toys for Tots activity, which takes place each year, is the collection and distribution of toys in the communities in which a Marine Corps Reserve Unit is located.
Local toy collection campaigns begin in October and last until mid- to late December. >Toy distribution also takes place mid- to late December. Members of the community drop new, unwrapped toys in collection boxes positioned in local businesses. Coordinators pick up these toys and store them in central warehouses, where the toys are sorted by age and gender.
At Christmas, coordinators - with the assistance of local social welfare agencies, church groups and other local community agencies - distribute the toys to the less fortunate children of the community. Over the years, Marines have established close working relationships with social welfare agencies, churches and other local community agencies, which are well-qualified to identify the needy children in the community and play important roles in the distribution of the toys.
While Toys for Tots coordinators organize and manage the campaign, the ultimate success depends on the support of the local community and the generosity of the people who donate toys, the release said.
Local business leaders play key roles. They allow coordinators to locate drop-off/collection boxes in their stores; provide free warehouse space for storing and sorting toys during October, November and December; provide vehicles to collect toys from drop-off sites; sponsor toy raising events; and help coordinators arrange media exposure for Toys for Tots in the local community.
"We were thrilled with the results of this year's program," said MaryAnn O'Connor, commander of the Post 7318. "We more than doubled last year's contributions, from toys, to food, to money collected. It was our best year ever!"
The Christmas barbecue hosted by the VFW and the men's auxiliary was "a tremendous success," a news release said. More than 300 area residents enjoyed the complimentary barbecue meal, and the VFW collected 412 toys and raised $3,000 for Toys for Tots, and 742 pounds of food for the Sandhills Food Bank.
"In these difficult economic times, we were absolutely amazed with the outpouring of donations we were able to help organize and provide during the holiday season," said Jimmy Hinesley, president of the men's auxiliary.
In the spirit of a truly a communitywide event, Boy Scouts Troop 223, Pinecrest High School Junior ROTC and The O'Neal School girls' basketball team served food and assisted with photos with Santa, which were donated by local professional photographer Dana Kirk.
Pierside Entertainment served as masters of ceremonies and played Christmas music during the event. The Carolina Beach Music Awards Association donated the barbecue and the side dishes were provided by Tony Carlyle and Aberdeen Coca-Cola, Broad Street Bakery, Jordan's Catering, Hussey's Poultry and Russell's Fish House. As a special treat, Elwood Kennedy, of Aberdeen, made homemade hushpuppies.
Many other local individuals and businesses helped sponsor the event, and Muirfield Broadcasting and Star 102.5 and King Curtis's Beach Club, along with WlWL 770AM Rockingham, contributed valuable radio awareness.
"We sincerely thank everyone who helped make this year such a fantastic success," Hinesley said. "It is one of the most rewarding programs we work with each year at our local VFW Post."
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