By Joseph P. Cirone
Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling Public Affairs
JOINT BASE ANACOSTIA-BOLLING, D.C. (Dec. 17, 2010) – For the last few weeks, people in green outfits have been scurrying about the Naval and Marine Corps Reserve Center at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling (JBAB) in Washington, D.C. at an even faster pace than normal as Marines volunteering for the National Capital Region’s Toys for Tots campaign increased their efforts as Christmas approaches.
Their efforts did not go unnoticed. First Lady Michelle Obama stopped by Friday to thank the Marines, Sailors, Airmen and Soldiers for their help getting new, unwrapped toys into the hands of underprivileged children in time for the holiday. “You guys are doing a terrific job. We are so very proud of you,” she told them.
Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Eugene Sharpe of Marine Corps Site Support Anacostia, serving as the coordinator for the National Capital Region’s Toys for Tots campaign said the First Lady is a strong supporter of the program. “A few weeks ago she invited us to the White House for the campaign’s kick off. Then some of the White House staff came over. Together, we loaded and sorted three truck loads of toys.”
“Wherever I go, I’m going to be supporting this effort every Christmas. It is truly a pleasure,” Obama said.
Marines from five different units stationed at JBAB are helping the local effort, picking up, sorting and distributing toys, Sharpe reported. Personnel from the Pentagon and other military commands in the area have assisted the effort.
106.000 toys needed in the D.C. area; 16.3 million provided nationwide
Sharpe, the father of two children, and a veteran of four other Toys for Tots campaigns – three times in Philadelphia and once in Texas, said the campaign he now leads has 106,000 toys requested. The distribution site has been handling up to 600 families per day since Dec. 6.
Retired Marine Lt. Gen. Pete Osman, president and the CEO of the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation said the 63 year old national program consists of 713 local campaigns, including a new one in Guam. “We try to convince local citizens that there are less fortunate children in their communities for whom the contribution of a toy can make all the difference in the world for that youngster, come Christmas morning.”
“As a Dad, I can’t image facing Christmas morning without a gift under the tree. But some parents are facing that. People are unemployed now who would have never thought of being in a position of asking for help and now find themselves doing so. We are requesting the American people to once again step forward to help those who literally would not have a Christmas if they don’t do something about it,” Osman said.
Last year, Toys for Tots provided 16.3 million toys to 7.5 million children, including a special outreach program to those living on Indian reservations. “With 14 million children living at or below the poverty level, according to the Census Bureau, we are not able to reach them all, but we try to reach as many as we can,” Osman said.
“The Marines can’t do it alone. Other military services help and 25,000 people in the local communities also helped,” Osman stated.
Santa’s unseen and unknown helpers
Sharpe said the presents are given to parents for wrapping and giving to children. The Marines are Santa’s unseen and unknown helpers. “The parents are more than grateful and appreciative of what these Marines do.”
During her visit, Obama addressed the press and reminded the American people of the opportunity and need to help in the Toys for Tots program. “We want to remind everyone that it’s not too late to contribute. It’s very easy.” Obama said a visit to the Toys for Tots website allows the donation of a toy online and the location of the nearest drop-off center in the community. “Just drop off an unwrapped toy of any type at the center.”
“Whatever you would buy for your child is exactly what we are looking for. Dolls, footballs, baseballs, basketballs., soccer balls, bicycles, makeup kits for girls are always very popular,” Osman stated.
Obama made an appeal for people to remember the needs of older children, as well. “We want to make sure that those preteens and tweens have something to open on Christmas, as well.” She said clothing, books, backpacks and games make great holiday gifts for young people between the ages of 11 and 14.
After her remarks, Obama helped Marines sort toys she brought from a collection made at the White House, as well as from other collection sites in the region.
Before departing, the First Lady personally greeted the Marines helping Toys for Tots and approximately 30 other military personnel, including Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Trea King, JBAB’s senior enlisted leader, other Air Force, Navy and Army personnel assigned to JBAB or its tenant commands.
She told the crowd, “In addition to all the work that you already do, the service that you all do for this country, the fact that you are putting it all out for kids across this country just speaks the world of who you all are as people. And it really makes us very proud.”
“This program only works because the American people realize there is a need and they are willing to step forward and make a difference. They are bringing the joy of Christmas and sending the message of hope to a less fortunate child,” Osman concluded.