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Holiday toy drives under way
Upcoming fundraisers, awareness events planned
web 1106 Spaghetti lunch
Volunteers from the United Way, Toys for Tots, the VFW and the Hinesville Masonic Lodge prepared more than 800 spaghetti lunches Friday. All the proceeds benefitted the annual Toys for Tots campaign. - photo by Danielle Hipps

Want to help?

To volunteer, donate or provide a Toys for Tots drive site, call 368-4282.

To donate to Mama Irene’s Christmas, call her at 570-3344.

If the boxes at local businesses are any indication, the holiday Tots for Toys drive officially is under way.

Aimed at spreading Christmas cheer for low-income families, the annual community event is a collaboration between Fort Stewart and Liberty and Long counties. Efforts have been coordinated locally by the United Way of the Coastal Empire Liberty County office for the past three years.

According to Jennifer Darsey, director of the Liberty County United Way, the program’s goal is to deliver, through a new toy at Christmas, a message of hope that will assist less-fortunate youngsters in becoming responsible, productive, patriotic citizens.

So far, about 800 children are signed up for the program this year, and many of them are military dependents, Darsey said. But based on the community’s need and current economic trends, she anticipates serving 3,000 children this year.
Last year, 2,387 children benefited from the drive, which was made possible by more than 200 volunteers and many local businesses.

On Friday, the Hinesville Masonic Lodge #271 doled out more than 800 $5 spaghetti lunches, and all of the profits from the event will benefit the organization, according to Jim Williams, the lodge’s Toys for Tots ambassador.

“I raised two boys and I’ve got four grandsons, and the good Lord has blessed us enough that they’ll have a good Christmas this year,” he explained. “But we want everyone to have a good Christmas.”

The group wrote a $1,600 check to Toys for Tots in 2010, and Williams anticipates this year’s donation will be about $2,500.

 “You’ll be amazed at the number of people who create this thing and how organized it is,” he added.

On Thursday afternoon, Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas endorsed the drive and signed a proclamation declaring Nov. 13 as “Toys for Tots Sunday.” He encouraged all local churches to ask their congregations to bring new, unwrapped toys to services and asked those who have the means to become involved in the campaign.

Also on Nov. 13, Liberty Propane will sponsor an annual bike ride and auction beginning at noon at the Liberty County Recreation Department on Highway 84. Admission is $10 or an unwrapped toy, and participants can choose their ride — whether it’s a car, truck or motorcycle. For more information, call Hank Stacy at 408-3040.

On Saturday, Nov. 12, Elaine Boggs Realty Group is hosting a barbecue from 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., and the group is seeking toy donations as admission.

“The goal is to get that whole truck full of toys for the United Way,” Elaine Boggs said.

To qualify for the assistance, families must provide information about their combined household incomes, as well as proof of address and photo identification for parents and guardians.

Applications for assistance are due to the United Way by 5 p.m. Dec. 5 at 135 E. M.L. King Jr. Drive. Applicants will be notified of their acceptance Dec. 14.

Another Liberty County resident, Irene Myers, better known as “Mama Irene,” also is seeking help from the community for her annual toy drive, Mama Irene’s Christmas.

“This year, of all years, we’ve got so many families out of work and so many families going without a Christmas,” she said. “I just don’t want to see anybody go without, especially not the children.”

She began her efforts so long ago that she cannot recall exactly when, she said. Last year, Myers dispersed 1,000 toys.

While Myers acknowledges that her drive may be overshadowed by Toys for Tots, she insists that both groups are working toward the same goal.

“I’m not trying to step on anybody’s toes,” she said. “You know, sometimes people miss the registration deadline, and sometimes a lot of people get missed.”

Other times, Myers is able to reach out to those who aren’t willing to ask for help, she added. She doles out her presents on the honor system.

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