What does it take to be a hero?

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With all the news about delayed shipping, shortages, and the possibility of a diminished Christmas, Marine Corps veterans and members of the Coweta and Fayette communities are trying to do something about it — especially for those that might not have a Christmas at all.

U.S. Marines are usually thought of as hard-charging, tough, relentless warriors who, when necessary, wage war and wreak havoc and destruction upon those who oppose freedom and threaten America and her allies.

But try telling that to the children, who see another side of these tough leathernecks around Christmas time. During this time of the year, Marines lend a helping hand to Santa and bring joy and toys to millions of children.

Since 1947, Marines (active, reserve, and veterans) have participated in The Marine Corps Toys for Tots program, an IRS-recognized 501(c)(3) not-for-profit charity. Locally, the program is managed by the Marine Corps League, Sgt. Clyde Thomason Medal of Honor Detachment 1325, and has served Coweta and Fayette counties for years. The program locally has been expanded to include children in both Meriwether and Heard counties.

The mission of the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots Program is to collect new, unwrapped toys during November and December each year, and distribute those toys as Christmas gifts to needy children in the community. Each year, the local effort puts new toys into the hands of over 6,000 children. Since 1947, Toys for Tots has given 604 million toys to 272 million kids nationwide.

The Fayette/Coweta/Meriwether/Heard Toys for Tots campaign for the 2021 Christmas holiday officially kicks off on the Saturday and Sunday following Thanksgiving and continues for three weekends. Volunteers from many organizations and neighborhoods and Marine veterans will be present on Saturdays and Sundays at local Walmarts in Newnan, Peachtree City, and Fayetteville to receive donations of money and new toys.

The toy collection campaign will continue at many local businesses and organizations throughout the four-county area with over 100 participating business and organizations who will have boxes for the collection of toys.

Volunteering opportunities and requests for assistance can be found on a website at southside.toysfortots.org. Donors can also make monetary donations at that website. Monetary donations are used to purchase toys for local children.

In one recent local campaign in Coweta County, one of the volunteers was a mother who brought along her two kids to man a table. When asked why she had volunteered, she shared that, when she was a child, there was no money for presents. It was the Toys for Tots program that brought her toys for Christmas for years. She said she wanted to give back and wanted her own children, at an early age, to do something for others who might not have a Christmas without someone caring.

What does it take to be a hero? The dictionary says that a hero is, “A person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life: soldiers and nurses who were heroes in an unpopular war. A person noted for special achievement in a particular field.” Note that a hero can be “a person noted for feats of…nobility of purpose.” It is noble to sacrifice for others so that they may enjoy a special season and have pleasant life-long memories.

For 246 years, the Marines have given their all to help keep America free. But now, for the sake of the children, the Marines are asking for your help. This season, help the Marines and the many local volunteers make this Christmas a merry one for thousands of local children. Volunteer. Donate toys. Give money. Be a hero. The children will thank you and the Marines will salute you.

[David Epps is the Rector of the Cathedral of Christ the King (www.ctk.life). During the pandemic, the church is open at 10:00 a.m. on Sundays but is also live streaming at www.ctk.life. He is the bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South (www.midsouthdiocese.life) He may contacted at davidepps@ctk.life.]

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