Marines overcome obstacles to deliver Toys for Tots

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From left are Mario Silvestrini, Dan Ball, Jim Dunbar, Bill McGinley, Bob McCarty, Bob Moran, Lou Fusco, Ron Powell, Pat Scannell, Joe Patrick, Ed Link, Mo Loveland, Frank Vesely, Charles Fields and Tom Knoll, all from Marine Corps League Detachment 194. From left are Mario Silvestrini, Dan Ball, Jim Dunbar, Bill McGinley, Bob McCarty, Bob Moran, Lou Fusco, Ron Powell, Pat Scannell, Joe Patrick, Ed Link, Mo Loveland, Frank Vesely, Charles Fields and Tom Knoll, all from Marine Corps League Detachment 194.

GALLOWAY – Despite meeting the greatest challenges in its history, Marine Corps League Detachment 194’s Toys for Tots Program ended the year as a great success.

“Through the donations of toys, money and physical help from businesses, organizations, and private individuals in Atlantic County, we were able to close the books to this year’s program with full knowledge that we made a difference in our local community,” said public information officer Paul Robinson.

“Our first major setback took place when thieves broke into and stole thousands of toys from our trailer,” Robinson said. “We had been briefly storing these items after a very successful Marine Corps League Gunny Golf Tournament at Mays Landing Country Club, the annual Contractors Convention at the Tropicana Hotel Casino, and the always popular Corvette Run, courtesy of Kerbeck Chevrolet.”

Then came Hurricane Sandy.

“The major effect of this storm on us was that several of the large conventions that have always supported the cause were cancelled,” Robinson said. “We had to put a cap on the age group of children that we normally serve – for the first time in our history – to 12 years old.”

The generous donation of the use of the old Value City store a the Shore Mall behind Boscov’s by Cedar Realty Trust allowed the league to set up operations and begin to organize the toys for this year’s program.

“If buildings had human feelings, this store might shed a tear that its last formal function was going to be that of a mini-version of the FAO Schwarz toy store in New York City,” Robinson said.

Starting on the first day, when people were lined up several hours ahead of their scheduled times, the store stayed busy with last-minute donations coming in one door while the families were coming in another, he said.

“By the time we carried the last bag of toys to the car to our last customer this year, we distributed close to a dozen and a half toys per family to some 1,346 families in Atlantic County,” Robinson said. “In addition, we also distributed 12,800 toys to 41 different organizations, also located in Atlantic County.”

In all, close to 31,000 toys, about 9,000 stocking stuffers, 2,000 games, and 1,700 puzzles were delivered and distributed through the Toys for Tots store, he said. A grand total of more than  43,300 items went to needy families.

“All of these items were made available through the generosity of our local businesses, organizations and individuals who made a special effort to help those in need, especially with so many children displaced from their former residences,” Robinson said. “There are so many that help, but one local business that deserves a special note of thanks for the outstanding effort is Storybook Land. For two nights during their busy Christmas season, they granted one free admission with a toy donation. This individual effort amounts to thousands of dollars to the cause.”

There were even out-of-state organizations that sent things to help out when they read of the storm and the plight of our local children, according to Robinson.

“Two specific non-local entities that we were especially grateful to this year are Brandywine Realty Trust of Radnor, Pa., and the City of the Village of Douglas, Mich.,” Robinson said. “Douglas is a small community that borders Lake Michigan.”

Marine Corps League members donate time and resources to make the annual undertaking a reality, but their hundreds of man- and woman-hours are matched by various organizations in the area as well.

Robinson also wanted to thank Galloway Township Middle School, Mainland Regional High School, the 177th Fighter Wing Group, Boy Scout Troop 97 of Galloway and the First Baptist Church of Richland.

He also acknowledged individual efforts by Tititia Plummer who handles the heavy administrative responsibility of sign up and qualification, and Jean Beatty whose help throughout the distribution process makes things run smoothly.

“Frank Vesely, coordinator of the local Toys for Tots program and his committee of Ron Powell, Charles Fields and Bob Fudala would like to thank everyone involved,” Robinson said. “This undertaking wouldn’t be possible without the generosity of the local community both in toys and personal effort.

“With all of the trials and tribulations, this was simply another demonstration of Marine Corps esprit de corps – get the mission accomplished.”


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