BY MALLORY HARMON
“My goal is for every child in Forsyth County to have a Christmas,” says George Gerdes, local Coordinating Officer of Toys for Tots in North Carolina since 2009. This mission has been shared by Toys for Tots since its inception, when it was initiated by Major Bill Hendrix with the United States Marines Corps in 1947. For the past eight years the organization, supported by the unwavering endorsement of Bob Hope and Walt Disney, has expanded to establish local campaigns in all fifty states.
Toys for Tots has a very particular prerequisite as it insists that the toys donated to the charity are new. This aspect of the organization was established so that the children in need do not feel second-class by receiving cast out hand-me-downs. Instead, they are afforded the pride of owning something new and desirable.
George Gerdes, who has aided in the collection of over 50,000 toys for the charity organization, is extremely passionate, and his mission affects his work continuously. He recounts the story of a young child glowing with happiness as he received the toy he had been hoping for and ran to show George his new present. “Look what Santa brought me!” George knew that the child’s mother was in a tough situation and that she desired nothing more than to provide her son that toy he wanted. George tells us, “When I saw the happiness that those people were experiencing I knew we were doing the right thing.”
If you are interested in participating alongside this fantastic organization, you can go the Toys for Tots website to donate new toys or funds online. If you are part of a local business, apply for a collection box for donations. Finally, volunteering is also essential to the role of Toys for Tots. Volunteer responsibilities include picking up toys at participating locations and bringing them to the Salvation Army, which has partnered with Toys for Tots in perpetuity and distributes the collected toys annually. Last year, volunteers collected over 27,000 toys! Volunteers also organize the toys into gender groups and even distribute the concealed presents to grateful parents before Christmas. Mr. Gerdes continues, “I am extremely thankful that I can take care of my family, but there are those who need assistance. We have the opportunity once a year to take care of children in need.” The Forsyth Community has partnered with Toys for Tots for the past several years. George Gerdes acknowledges, “I must offer my thanks for the support from Forsyth County. Last year we doubled our toy count and were able to reach over 14,000 families.”
It may be hard to recall now but think back…way back. Try to remember the one thing you hoped for most for as you rushed from your room on Christmas morning. You quite probably received it with the glow and enthusiasm of youth. You probably carried it or rode it out to show your friends, all the while bursting with pride. Can you describe that feeling? Me neither, but I certainly remember it. It is the essence of childhood. However, there are children in our very community for whom this glow and pride is elusive. Economic realities are just that, real; causing many families to actually dread the coming of the holiday season. Christmas is not solely about getting the gift that you have always wanted; it is also about caring for your neighbor and showing unconditional love to your family and a heart for your community. This year, take advantage of this life-giving opportunity to bring the joy of Christmas to those around you. Toys for Tots is ready and waiting to help you help others.