FORT SILL, Okla.-- Santa Claus and other VIPs will open the Toys for Kids program Dec. 10 at 9 a.m. at the RecPlex, 2502 Sheridan Road, to make sure all toys have been delivered safely and there are enough for the children.

Santa received lots of letters from children from Lawton-Fort Sill and the surrounding areas and wants to make sure everyone on his list receives toys.

Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation runs the center through Dec. 21 to ensure all military members and their families have the help they need during the holiday season.

A separate play area is available for children while their parents shop for toys.

Hours of operation for the Toys for Kids program are Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The center is closed on weekends.

All military members needing help must go through their command channels and be referred to the center.

"This is the fourth year for Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation to administer the program. Participation in our event continues to grow every year," said Bill Barwick, Nonappropriated fund support manager.

This is also the fourth year all the toys at the center are new.

"We have all new toys many of them very popular items that bring a level of excellence that Toys for Kids had not been able to deliver before," Barwick said. "Each child can receive two toys, and we have toys for all ages of children from infants to teenagers. It's all new stuff not just new as it just came off the shelf, but also new as in the latest toys to hit the stores -- things every kid would want for Christmas."

Barwick said, "If someone needs help and assistance to make it a great Christmas, they can come here to make it special for them, because they are special."

Soldiers helping Soldiers
Barwick, who helps to administer the program, said it is about Soldiers helping Soldiers.

Cash and toys are collected throughout the year, and then Toys for Kids buys what it needs to stock the shelves.

"It's a way to help out Soldiers who might be having a hard time financially, and who are doing so much overseas right now," he said.

According to Barwick it is a grass roots program all about needs, not wants.

"Soldiers are selected to use the program by their noncommissioned officers.

"NCOs are the most informed on what their Soldiers are going through and what they need," he said.

Donations of new toys are accepted at the RecPlex. Monetary donations can be made through the Financial Management Division of MWR at Building 4700. Donations are accepted year-round.

Other collection points for new toys are all four Fort Sill Federal Credit Union locations and Jim Glover Chevrolet, 82nd Street and Cache Road in Lawton.

Staff members at Jim Glover Chevrolet are hosting a toy drive attempting to fill two truck beds full of new toys to sponsor the Toys for Kids program.

Steve Barnes, Jim Glover Chevrolet general manager, said the staff members are excited to be a part of the program, and they hope to bring several truckloads of toys for the children.

"We are a new dealership and this is our second Christmas in Lawton-Fort Sill. We were looking for something to get involved in to 'pay it forward' during the Christmas season. We wanted to be more than a sponsor; we wanted to get involved. Jared and Kristen Glover, Jim Glover's kids, are very competitive and each of them wanted to fill a truck bed full of toys for the program.

Kristen is collecting girl's toys and Jared is collecting boy's toys. We actually hope to bring out more than two trucks full of toys. I hope we can bring out at least 10," said Barnes.

Other organizations who donated toys or money for the program include the Patriot Spouses' Club and several Fort Sill units.

Barwick thanked the spouses club for their donation and all the Fort Sill units and volunteers "Who do a fantastic job assisting us every year."

Brenda Spencer-Ragland, FMWR director, said the old adage "to give is better than to receive" is alive and well at Fort Sill this year thanks to the great sponsorship of many organizations.

"This program only happens through the generosity of our sponsors and donors. We do not use nonappropriated funds or Department of the Army funds to buy the toys. The program serves 1,200 children a year," said Spencer-Ragland.

"It is a well-received program that we inherited, and it gets better every year. We received $20,000 for this program, and we use it to ensure Santa gets all the help he needs to make sure every deserving boy and girl from newborns to 18 year olds get the toys they requested. Santa will be at the RecPlex Dec. 10 at 9 a.m. He will inspect the toys and stick around to make sure he meets and talks to as many of the children who sent him their lists; he will also take photos with them," said Spencer-Ragland.

"Each year I stress over how we will ever be able to find enough donors and sponsors to support this wonderful program," she said. "But each year, we are blessed by the generous donations and sponsorship provided so we can meet the needs of our community. Many children will enjoy a wonderful Christmas thanks to the amazing support we have received from our sponsors. I simply cannot thank them enough for always being so willing to support this wonderful program that truly embraces the Christmas spirit."

Sponsors for the Toys for Kids program include: The Ross Group Construction Corporation, Fort Sill Thrift Shop, Jim Glover Chevrolet, Golden Corral, Raytheon, Jim Norton Toyota, USA Discounters, Fort Sill Federal Credit Union and Re/Max Pam & Barry's Team.

For more information, call 442-3001.