Sharing those blessings

Published 12:09 pm Thursday, November 15, 2007

By Staff
It is better to give than receive, especially when giving to the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Drive, the Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots and other holiday-giving programs that help the less fortunate during the Christmas season.
In recent years, the Toys for Tots campaign has become more prominent in the area. This year’s local Toys for Tots campaign, which is being coordinated by Downtown Washington on the Waterfront, Pamlico Sail and Power Squadron and the Washington Noon Rotary Club, has set up 20 drop-off sites for new, unwrapped toys. The collected toys will be turned over to representatives of the Marine Corps Reserve on Dec. 8, the date of the Holiday Flotilla on the Pamlico River.
As if the Marine Corps Reserve doesn’t give enough by serving this nation, it’s taken on the responsibility of helping make the holiday season a happy time for many children who likely wouldn’t have a merry Christmas otherwise.
Toys for Tots began in 1947 when Maj. Bill Hendricks, a Marine Corps reservist, and a group of fellow reservists in Los Angeles collected and distributed 5,000 toys to needy children. The idea came from Hendricks’ wife, Diane, who made a Raggedy Ann doll and asked her husband to deliver it to a group that would give it to a needy child. When Hendricks determined that no such agency existed, his wife told him to start one. He did.
The 1947 campaign was so successful the Marine Corps adopted Toys for Tots in 1948 and expanded it into a nationwide campaign. From 1947 through 1979, Marines collected and distributed new and used toys. On Reserve drill weekends in October, November and December, Reserve Marines refurbished the used toys. From 1980 to present, the Marines have accepted only new toys for the program. In 1991, the Toys for Tots Foundation was established to support the Toys for Tots program.
In 1995, Toys for Tots became an official program of the Marine Corps and an official mission for the Marine Corps Reserve.
Well, every Christmas season the Marine Corps Reserve has the situation well in hand. The Marine reservists prove every year it is better to give than receive. That proof is on the smiles of children who receive the toys they collect.
The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Drive also provides Christmas cheer to those whose holiday season would be bleak without the benefits provided by money dropped in those red kettles. The kettles’ history goes back more than 100 years.
The Red Kettle tradition began in December 1891, when the Salvation Army captain in San Francisco decided to provide free Christmas dinners to that city’s poor people.
A question he faced: How to pay for those dinners?
Going about his daily duties and tasks, that question stayed on his mind. One day, the captain’s thoughts went back to his days as a sailor in Liverpool, England. On that city’s Stage Landing he saw a large pot called “Simpson’s pot,” into which charitable donations were tossed by passersby.
The next day, the captain received permission from San Francisco officials to locate a similar pot at the Oakland ferry landing, at the foot of Market Street. It was placed in a location easily seen by those going to and from the ferries. A brass urn was placed in a nearby waiting room in which ferry passengers could place donations.
That’s how Capt. Joseph McFee began a tradition that spread throughout the world and resumes again this Saturday with a kettle drive at Wal-Mart.
Donations placed in the kettles provide Christmas dinners, clothing and toys to families in need. Donations also help provide basic necessities, along with seasonal aid such as money to enable some people to pay their heating bills, according to the national Salvation Army’s Web site. Volunteers help distribute gifts to shut-ins at hospitals and nursing homes.
It doesn’t matter to which organization you give this holiday season. It does matter that you give.
Just ask those who are the recipients of your generosity.