From left, Sgt. Simon Garcia, Staff Sgt. Joshua Vidal (partially hidden), Staff Sgt. Ryan Hall of the U.S. Marine Corps and Chief Warrant Officer 5 Don Hunter (retired) and Toys For Tots chairman, attend the Toys For Tots kick-off Wednesday morning at the Roswell Chamber of Commerce. (Mark Wilson Photo)
Toys for Tots, a Marine-funded charity organization which has been in the United States for more than 60 years, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony marking the fourth year of its toy drive in Roswell, at the Roswell Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday.
â€œOur mantra is â€˜being able to impact economically disadvantaged children, with an opportunity to realize a dream, that the economy or their family situation might not allow them to participate in,â€™â€ Hunter said.
Roswellâ€™s Toys for Tots program is led by Don Hunter, president of the board of directors of the Roswell Chamber of Commerce and a retired Marine.
Hunter was joined by members of the Roswell Chamber, retired Marines, community leaders, and active Marines: Staff Sgt. Joshua Vidal, local Marine Corps representative, Staff Sgt. Ryan Hall, station commander of Eastern New Mexico, and Staff Sgt. Simon Garcia, Hobbs Marine Corps recruiter. Members of the Sgt. D. Moses Rocha detachment of the Marine Corps League, which sponsors the Roswell Marine Corps, were also in attendance. Children who benefit from Toys for Tots come from diverse backgrounds, where their parents struggle to buy gifts for their children during the holiday season.
Donations made to TFT are farreaching and widely felt throughout the city. Hunter has been with TFT for 30 years. He said he has never seen such an outpouring of support from a community in all of his years at TFT.
â€œThis is the most phenomenal place that wants to have an impact on its kids,â€ Hunter said. â€œIn an economic downturn, we saw over 1,287 donations given to Toys for Tots and over 978 kids from Roswell were impacted by the giving nature that is Roswell.â€
Over the course of the ceremony, Hunter made brief pauses, as he held back tears, and expressed his gratitude for the communityâ€™s involvement in the project, and the Marinesâ€™ initiative to â€œpay it forward.â€
â€œItâ€™s hugely important in this country that these children understand what giving is all about,â€ Hunter said. â€œItâ€™s reciprocal. Itâ€™s the law of reciprocity â€” give and it will be given.â€
Toys for Tots-Roswell has raised thousands of dollars in the past, in addition to toy donations made by members of the community and sponsors like Toys â€œRâ€ Us.
â€œThe national chain store Toys â€œRâ€ Us has given this local community $2,000 for me to go buy toys for their kids,â€ Hunter said. â€œThatâ€™s powerful. Thatâ€™s powerful … it allows us to access wholesalers that offer great deals for kids at reduced prices … the value of money is huge.â€
On Thursday, Dec. 23, Toys for Tots will have a toy drive at the Yucca Center. Toys given away at the event will be gathered from boxes which will be located inside local businesses and stores.
Organizers are requesting new and unwrapped toy donations, for the purpose of inspection and ensuring that toys are safe to hand out to kids. Dollar donation cards will also be available in stores.
â€œGiving to children is the reason why my heart beats,â€ Hunter said. â€œHaving these Marines behind me and these former Marines in front of me makes all the difference in the world to me as an individual.â€
For more information about how to donate directly to Toys for Tots, contact Hunterâ€™s office at 623-0803 or the Roswell Chamber of Commerce.