Sharing with others during the holiday season is not a new venture for the members of the Bucks Lehigh Association of Educational Office Professionals. Each year at our December meeting, members arrive with mittens, scarves and hats to temporarily decorate the Trumbauersville Elementary School "Mitten Tree". By the time our contributions are added, the tree is usually not visible under the load of warm accessories the children have already collected, but every item finds its way to a child who needs it, in time for the holidays.Members also arrive with a selection of unwrapped toys, which we have always arranged to forward to Toys for Tots. This year was no different, except that we learned a lot about where our toys would be going when they left us, the process involved in collection and distribution, and some good hints for our future toy purchases. SSgt. Kevin J. Miller, USMCR, in charge of the Upper Bucks County Toys for Tots Program, graciously took the time from his busy schedule to pick-up our toys and to explain the Program to us. Toys for Tots is a program of the Marine Corps Reserve that has been operating since 1947 and now reaches communities in every state.

While toy collection and distribution is handled by a Marine Corps Reserve Unit in communities where there is a unit, in many areas like ours, the campaign is headed by a volunteer coordinator from a Marine Corps League Detachment or a group of men and women, generally veteran Marines, authorized by the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation. SSgt. Miller and his group of seven volunteers spend long hours each October, November and December, arranging for the collection and distribution of new, unwrapped toys as Christmas gifts to needy children in Upper Bucks and Montgomery Counties. "The Program in Upper Bucks will be looking for even more help, in the way of volunteers, to try and cover more of our communities, as the Marine Corps presence in our area shrinks with the approaching move of Marines from Willow Grove Air Station," SSgt Miller, said.

According to the Toys for Tots website, toysfortots.org, the primary goal of the program is: "to deliver, through a shiny new toy at Christmas, a message of hope to needy youngsters that will motivate them to grow into responsible, productive, patriotic citizens and community leaders." It's a nice feeling to know that we are a small part of the effort that has already distributed nearly half a billion toys to almost 250 million children. In our own area, last year more than 9,000 toys were collected and distributed to over 2,200 children.

SSgt. Miller was also able to offer some suggestions for our future shopping trips, explaining that it is not always just young children that need a gift. He especially noted that it can be difficult to find a toy suitable for a child under 3 or over 12 years old. The right gift may not even be a toy, but a curling iron, blow dryer or bath products for a teenaged girl. It seemed awkward to accept SSgt. Miller's appreciation for the small part we played, especially once we saw the big job he and his volunteers are doing for our communities. I know that BLAEOP members will continue to support Toys for Tots, and now that we understand more of what is involved in the program, I think we will do our part even better and gain even more satisfaction from our contributions.

Garnet D. Upton, CEOE BLAEOP (retired)

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