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By Mike Scott
“Marines have a soft spot for children,” said Rick Meredith, one of two volunteer coordinators bringing the Marine Corps Reserve Toys For Tots program to Clark County and Lee County, Iowa.
According to the organizations website, toysfortots.org, the basic mission of the Marine Toys for Tots Program is to collect new unwrapped toys and distribute those toys to less fortunate children at Christmas.
The primary goal of Marine Toys for Tots is, through the gift of a new toy, help bring the joy of Christmas and send a message of hope to America’s less fortunate children.
Meredith, a Marine veteran, has been a member of the Hamilton Walters Detachment 616 in Burlington for about 27 years. Meridith noted that in Burlington, the program had delivered 9-10 toys per child last Christmas.
He and former long-time Clark County R-1 teacher Denise Nelson have worked together in the Burlington area for 12 or 13 years. The pair have also been working closely in Clark County with Roby Hammond, another CCR-1 teacher.
“Last year, our coordination said he wanted a chapter in Lee County,” said Meridith, who also has family connections in Clark County. “We wanted to include Clark County.”
“One of the things we need now is to get the word out that we’re doing this,” said Nelson.
Currently, the organization needs money to start purchasing gifts. They are also looking for a warehouse and distribution site, Nelson stated.
“And we need volunteers,” added Meridith.
“We’re starting now because we need to get it going from the ground up,” he added.
“I know Clark County is a generous community, and will support the program,” said Nelson.
Registration for toys will take place in November, and the distribution will be in December.
To donate, or for more information, contact Denise at 319-470-2981 or Rick at 319-795-0613.
Toys For Tots History
Toys for Tots began in 1947 as the brain child of Marine Corps Reserve Major Bill Hendricks. Actually it was his wife, Diane, who was the real inspiration. She had a few handcrafted dolls and asked Bill to deliver them to an agency that supports children in need.
When Bill reported back to his wife that he could not find such an organization, she instructed him to “start one!”. Maj Hendricks and the Marines in his reserve unit in LA collected and distributed 5,000 toys in 1947.
Bill Hendrick’s civilian job was Director of Public Relations at Warner Brothers Studios. He was friends with many celebrities who he asked to help support the newly created Marine Toys for Tots Program. As a personal friend and as a favor to Bill, Walt Disney designed the first Toys for Tots poster which included a miniature three-car train that was subsequently adopted as the Toys for Tots logo.
The Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, an IRS recognized 501 (c) (3) not-for-profit charity, was established in 1991 at the behest of the Marine Corps to help run and support the Marine Toys for Tots Program.