Marines help kick off the toy-donation season
The Record, Stockton, Calif.
STOCKTON, Calif. — Joseph Meyers remembers coming home from active duty in 2007 and needing help.
"I was going through some financial issues. They had a (toy drive) program at Camp Pendleton, and they helped my kids a lot," Meyers said.
That Christmas was happy for his family, which now has five children, ages 10 years to 18 months. Because of that experience, Meyers was one of the Marines stationed in Lathrop who volunteered for Sunday's 17th annual Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Car Show.
The event at Stockton's Chase Chevrolet featured a few dozen gleaming, refurbished cars, including a 1958 red Chevrolet Corvette, a yellow 1937 Ford Roadster, a 1931 Studebaker Roadster complete with running board, a plum-colored 1951 Chevy pickup and a cherry red 1964 Chevelle.
There also were several barrels to collect unused toys.
The September car show serves as the kickoff for the local toy drive that is part of the U.S. Marine Corps' national campaign. The program was adopted by the Marines in 1948, a year after a Los Angeles Marine reservist, Bill Hendricks began a toy drive when he realized no agency existed to collect toys for needy children. Since then, the Marines have collected and donated toys to millions of children.
All toys and money collected for toys stay in the local community. Last year's Marine Corps Toys for Tots drive provided gifts for 18,000 children in San Joaquin County. This year's goal is 20,000.
"It ebbs and flows, but as the economy has hit the skids, we've gotten more support from people who are doing OK," said Meyers, 30, who joined the Marines in 2001 after graduating from high school in Portland, Ore. "The problem is there's an increase in need."
The Marines will roll out donation barrels at local stores, particularly area Walmart stores, in November, but the car show is the traditional kickoff.
"The Stockton Marine Club members actually are the leaders of this event," Meyers said. "We volunteer to help out, show up and look pretty."
Most of the volunteers were in green shirts and pants, but Humberto Quiroz, 25, and Daniel Friel, 22, were the exception, outfitted in their dress blues.
"It's a good time, good to come out and see the cars, meet people and help out," said Friel, who's three years into a six-year contract with the Marine Corps reserves and stationed at Lathrop as a heavy equipment operator.
A car fan with "several projects" of his own, Friel said he liked most of the cars on display.
Quiroz, who spent seven months in Iraq in 2007 and now, in his eighth year, is a radio operator at Lathrop, also loves the spruced up cars. The Edison High School graduate volunteered at the show for the second year in a row for other reasons.
"It's a nice feeling if you can help families in need have a nice Christmas," Quiroz said.
He's been part of the distribution process, too, having helped when the Salvation Army gave gifts to families that had come from the Marine Corps Toys for Tots drive.
With more than an hour left in Sunday's toy drive, Quiroz and Friel stood in front of three huge barrels that were nearly full of donations.
Elaine Savage of Fremont was among those who added to the collection.
She and her husband, Jim, who had a 1964 Chevy Impala in the car show, had won a Hello Kitty game at the show's raffle, and turned around and gave it the toy drive.
"It's a good cause. We have two grandchildren, boys, 6 and 11, and they're fortunate, but we want to help the needy," Elaine Savage said.
"(Shows for charity) are the only shows we go to," said Jim Savage, who owns two different Impalas and was wearing a T-shirt from the 2008 Toys for Tots show held in Lathrop.
Entry for Sunday's show was $30, and money raised through those entry fees and the raffle will be used to purchase toys to supplement those that were donated.