FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Old Saint Nick made an early visit to Fort Jackson this week, providing Christmas toys for every Soldier to give to their children.

Nearly 70,000 Christmas toys are being distributed to every unit on the installation, thanks to the efforts by volunteers and the residents of South Carolina. The toy drive, which is affiliated with Operation Homefront, was conducted by Dollar Tree and Soldiers with the Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers program and other local volunteers sorted the toys at Fort Jackson.

"Every Soldier on this installation who has a child will be getting toys," said Sharon Rice, 157th Infantry Brigade Family Readiness Support assistant. "They will be getting up to five toys of everything from puzzles and crayons to animals and little toy trucks."

Toys were donated by customers at 15 Dollar Tree stores across the state during the past five weeks. Unit representatives picked up the toys from the Solomon Center on Wednesday to distribute to their Soldiers.

"The bulk of the toys are coming from Columbia. The local community has really shown a great appreciation for the military," Rice said. "Some of the stores were getting 1,000 toys a week. It is unreal."

Last year's toy drive netted just 2,000 toys and were distributed to two units on post.

"I noticed this year that a lot of stores in South Carolina weren't collecting toys from customers because they didn't have military installations in the area, such as Greenville, Rock Hill and Myrtle Beach. So I adopted those areas, too," Rice said. "It has turned into this huge undertaking where we had to get Fort Jackson involved and get an (operations) order."

Basic Combat Training Soldiers and drill sergeants from Fort Jackson picked up the toys from across the state and delivered them to the Solomon Center. Volunteers from BOSS and the installation spent Tuesday sorting and organizing the toys for distribution.

"It is an important cause," said Spc. Della Lopez, 165th Infantry Brigade. "There are children out there who either wouldn't get any toys or not very many presents if it weren't for this toy drive."
Soldiers were asked to send in a wish list for toys and those lists were taken to the Solomon Center by unit representatives to be picked up among the piles of donated toys.

"I feel like it is the right thing to do," said Crystal Tract, a volunteer whose husband is a wounded warrior. "You never know when you are going to need help. Even if there is just one Soldier who would otherwise not be able to give his or her child a present this year, it is worth it. Everyone has come together to make this happen."

Toys from the drive will also be distributed to the installation's two elementary schools.
Sgt. Arnita Miles, BOSS president, said the organization got involved with the toy drive as a way of giving back to Soldiers who have children.

"It is all in the spirit of giving back for Christmas," Miles said. "This is really going to help our Soldiers out for the holidays."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16