Toys for Tots
For the past 15 years Toys for Tots has been helping make Christmas wishes come true here in the Wiregrass.
Although the program has now changed hands, one Marine can't help but reflect on how the program got started in our area.
Joseph Fernandez says the Marine Corp is dedicated to helping families.
"In 1948 it became an official mission of the United States Maine Corp reserve" Fernandez explained.
When he returned home from Iraq in December of 2003, he begin working at a local non-profit wanting to help children in need in our community.
"I felt duty bound to share Toys for Tots with them" he says.
For two years he collected and distributed toys by himself; driving to Montgomery to collect the toys.
Then, he met two Marines who were also donating toys.
"They were looking for a location which they could use to store and distribute toys for Toys for Tots here in the Wiregrass" Fernandez says.
Veteran Mike Walton was the Wiregrass Toys for Tots coordinator for twelve years.
In that time, he helped collect over 127,000 toys.
"I said 'I want to do something to help the community'" Walton says.
He helped with Toys for Tots not just because he's a Marine, but because he knows what it's like to receive help.
"We had a house fire when I was a kid. The old news boys came in there and they gave us coats, and my dad is a very proud man he said 'I can take care of my kids,' they gave us shoes. Come Christmas time, they gave us toys" explained Walton.
The Marine Corp League, who collected toys under Walton, is made up of older Marines.
"In 2017 I said we have to give it up. We had people in there 85 and 90 doing it" he says.
Although he is no longer coordinating Toys for Tots, he is thankful another organization stepped up to help their community.
"This is one of the most giving communities you ever want to see in your life. They always want to step up and help out" Walton said.
The Dothan Young Professionals took over the program last year.
They provided over 2,400 children with Christmas gifts.
Sign ups are already under way. If you have not already signed your kids up for this year's Christmas toys program, Dial 2-1-1 to find out when and where you can go to apply.
The last day to sign up is November 14th.