News: Soldiers collect toys, donations for families
Story by Sgt. Raymond Boyington
METHUEN, Mass. – Soldiers from the 94th Military Police Company and 1st Battalion Army Reserve Careers Division collected more than $1,000 in toy and monetary donations from passing shoppers at The Loop in Methuen, Mass., Dec. 13, 2013, for Operation Santa Rescue, a locally-initiated program designed to help children in the community.
The inspiration for this event came from similar events like the Marines’ Toys for Tots program.
“I wanted to do something,” said Sgt. 1st. Class Keith A. Johnson, an Army Reserve career counselor from the ARCD. “When I was with the National Guard, the unit that I was with always did something and the armory was always just full of toys. This is something that we did so that we could get involved with the holiday spirit as well.”
Operation Santa Rescue collected enough toys to support 10 to 15 families in addition to cash donations.
“I didn’t know what a realistic goal would be,” said Johnson. Today’s donations definitely exceeded my expectations.
In addition to gathering donations, the volunteers also offered a raffle and showcased military equipment such as a Guardian Armored Security Vehicle, a Humvee, body armor, and an M4 carbine.
Johnson attributes the success to active participation. Soldiers helped the children and their parents with getting into the vehicles and putting on the military gear they had on display.
“You can interact with it, touch it, feel it, kick it, pick it up, put it on, and do pushups with it,” said Johnson. “The visual piece and the interactive piece is what really made this experience different than others and probably aided in its success.”
Along with being able to make the event fun for participants, Johnson organized the event to help make a difference for families. It was not difficult.
“If you have the right resources and the right people and the right mindset, it never is,” said Johnson. “Working with like-minded soldiers makes the effort easier and more effective.”
“I see how successful we were this year and it makes me think next year will be even better.”