By Tim Hipps, U.S. Army Installation Management CommandDecember 6, 2017
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Dec. 6, 2017) -- As a grandfather of 10, Rudy Morales Miranda knows a thing or two about Toys for Tots, especially during the Christmas holiday season.
"It's about service to the community," Morales said. "It's one of our Army values: selfless service."
The seventh-annual toy drive for the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program is in full swing at U.S. Army Installation Management Command and Army Environmental Command headquarters. Morales and other volunteers urge their peers to donate new, unwrapped toys for underprivileged children.
Eight boxes located throughout the campus of the three-star command known as "The Army's Home" will collect toys for the campaign through Dec. 14.
"We normally fill up the boxes that we're given, and then they overflow," said Morales, IMCOM Soldier Training Support Program branch chief. "And those are not small boxes. Each box contains up to 25 or 30 toys, so that's a lot of toys."
Marine Corps representatives are scheduled to visit the Subway lobby of IMCOM Headquarters, Bldg. 2261, at noon Dec. 14 to collect toys. An Army chaplain is expected to bless the toys and the employee band Jammin' with the G-Staff will deliver live music.
Soldiers and Army civilians support the Toys for Tots mission of providing a tangible sign of hope to economically disadvantaged children at Christmas, according to Morales.
"The very first year that we did this, we were late in getting the toys to the warehouse," Morales recalled. "And when we showed up, it was the day that they were distributing toys. That was pretty emotional for us because we saw the long line of families and children that were going to visit the Marines just to get a toy."
"Yeah, the line was long -- about 300 people in a line that stretched down the street," said Billie Gladney, who leads IMCOM's annual Toys for Tots and food drive campaigns.
"Seeing that in the local community just nailed it for us," Morales added. "There's a lot of poverty in San Antonio."
Toys for Tots' goal is to deliver, through a new toy at Christmas, a message of hope to less fortunate youth that will assist them in becoming responsible, productive, patriotic citizens.
"To me, it's about supporting the kids," said Brent Gaffney, who volunteered for his seventh IMCOM/AEC Toys for Tots campaign alongside Gladney and Morales. "They're influenced by seeing a Marine in uniform and the services that the military provides to help the community. It's just a great feeling."
Toys for Tots' objectives are to help less fortunate children throughout the United States experience the joy of Christmas; to play an active role in the development of one of our nation's most valuable resources: our children; to unite all members of local communities in a common cause for three months each year during the annual toy collection and distribution campaign; and to contribute to better communities in the future.
"I'm fortunate that my grandson has been getting nice toys, but it's always about the community," Gladney said. "You can't forget the community you came from. You see it in my hometown of Memphis, which also has low poverty areas, so giving back to the community is a great thing. You can't go wrong with that."
Founded in 1947 by Marine Corps Reservist Maj. William Hendricks as a charity event in Los Angeles, the inaugural Toys for Tots was so successful that it became a national campaign in 1948. The Toys for Tots Program and Foundation have since collected and distributed more than 500 million toys as Christmas gifts to needy children.
Local campaigns are conducted annually in more than 700 communities, including all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Over the years, Toys for Tots has established close working relationships with social welfare agencies, church groups, and other local agencies that help identify needy children in the community.
"It's a nationally recognized program," Morales said. "We know where the donations are going and we've seen firsthand, in person, where the donations are going."
Toys for Tots coordinators organize, coordinate and manage the campaign, but the ultimate success depends on local community support from groups like IMCOM and AEC, and the generosity of those rugged professionals who donate toys.
"We've probably averaged eight to 10 boxes of toys every year," said Gladney, who noted that an IMCOM/AEC-high 12 boxes were donated in 2015.
Every year, it's been an overwhelming response," Morales concluded. "IMCOM, Army Environmental Command and MWR have been very generous."