Santa's helpers were very busy unloading toys Wednesday at his Meridian workshop, better known as the Wesley House.
Marine Corps Reservists and the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department enlisted this year in Santa's ranks and collected over 3,000 toys for families in need of a little help this Christmas season.
"Just collecting toys, collecting toys ... everybody's been donating, donating. All the Marines have been standing in the cold. It's just beautiful," said Sgt. Jesabel Gatewood of the U.S. Marine Corps.
And all the toys brought here, all two truckloads of them, will end up under area Christmas trees in just under a week.
"Little elves pack all night, other elves get it out all day. It's just a community working together to provide Christmas to families that are having a hard time," said Nell Grissom, director of Wesley House. "The elves, the Marines, deputies, and other volunteers from the community will be working almost non-stop until Christmas Day, making sure that Christmas is bright for the children of east Mississippi.
"It's hard work, being an elf and all, but it means a lot in your heart when you look out and know a lot of kids will enjoy Christmas because of the effort you put forth," said Maj. Ward Calhoun of the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department. "Men and women of Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department and the U.S. Marine Corps working together, it was a good year."
Santa Claus will serve over 5,000 children because of the work his local 'helpers' have done.
"It's taken the whole community working together," said Grissom. "But to see these guys come in from out of the area and pitch in to this community and work as hard as they have, it really has touched me. It's been a blessing for us."
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How Toys for Tots Works
- The U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program is directed by the Commander of the Marine Forces Reserve, with the assistance of his staff, from the Marine Forces Reserve Headquarters in New Orleans, Louisiana.
- The Foundation provides the funding and support needed for successful annual toy collection and distribution campaigns.
- To cover all 50 states and more communities in each state, the Commander, Marine Forces Reserve authorizes the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation to permit selected Marine Corps League Detachments and Local Community Organizations (generally veteran Marines) located in communities without a Marine Reserve Center, to conduct Toys for Tots campaigns as part of the overall U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program.
- One individual, either a Marine, member of a Marine Corps League Detachment, or member of a local community organization, is designated the Toys for Tots Coordinator for that community. The coordinator is responsible for planning, organizing and conducting the campaign in his/her community.
- Local toy collection campaigns begin in October and last until Dec. 22. Toy distribution normally takes place on Dec. 23 and 24.
- Members of the community drop off new, unwrapped toys in collection boxes positioned in local businesses. Coordinators pick up these toys and store them in a central warehouse 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 toys to the needy children of the community.
- While Toys for Tots coordinators organize, coordinate and manage the campaign, the ultimate success depends on the support of the local community and the generosity of the people who donate toys.
Source: www.toysfortots.org (Toys for Tots Web site) contributed to this report.