On Saturday, an estimated 6,000 to 8,000 donated toys were parceled out and sent on their way to 1,050 Liberty County children who otherwise likely wouldn’t have gifts to open Christmas morning.
The U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program is facilitated locally by the United Way of Liberty County, which distributed the toys from Coastal Academy, formerly Jordye Bacon Elementary, with the help of scores of volunteers, who wrapped and passed out the presents.
Saturday’s dispensation came just in time for one family.
“My hours on my job just got cut back, so this came just in time,” Liberty County mother Clarissa Wood said. “This is a blessing right here.”
As she waited for volunteers to wrap a Minnie Mouse scooter for her 8-year-old daughter, Wood said she learned about the event through a friend.
“I know she’s going to be excited about that because she wanted a scooter,” Wood said.
Crystal Martineau also predicted her son would be “pretty excited,” about his gift. While volunteers wrapped up a new basketball wrapped for her 13-year-old son, who is 6 feet tall, Martineau admitted it had been a tough year for her family.
“I just swallowed my pride and asked for help this year,” she said.
During last year’s holiday season, the Martineau family’s home was broken into. In addition to household items, the thieves took all their Christmas gifts from under the tree. She and her children are looking forward to a better holiday this year.
“She’s just happy to get Christmas gifts this year,” Martineau said of her 8-year-old daughter.
Shannon Nathan, a single mother of six children ranging in age from 8 months to 16 years, said parenting on her own is difficult and she was grateful for the help from Toys for Tots.
“Most of the time, I feel, around the holidays, there’s mostly families united and coming together,” Nathan said. “Being that I am a single parent of multiple children, it’s a joy for me knowing that I can still bring out that happiness for them around the holidays.”
A couple dozen children and teens also volunteered with Toys for Tots.
“It means a lot to me that I’m helping people who are less fortunate than me and may not have the things that I have, so I’m just thankful that I can do this,” said 11-year-old Jared Johnson of Lewis Frasier Middle School’s Future Business Leaders of America.
Bradwell Institute Beta Club member Kyle Corrigan, 16, also lent a hand Saturday morning.
“It was a good way to help the community, and like he (Johnson) said, it helps those less fortunate,” Corrigan said.
Regarding the meaning of Christmas, Johnson said, “(It’s) not getting, but giving and spending time with your family and seeing smiles on people’s faces.”
The United Way of the Coastal Empire, Liberty branch Director Jennifer Darsey agreed that Toys for Tots is about intangible gifts.
“To me, it gives them hope,” Darsey said of the event. “That someone remembered them and wants to try to help them.”