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Toys for Military Families needed
With Christmas only days away, two local women are working fervently in getting the word out to not forget a young group of children often overlooked at Christmas — military children.
Spearheaded by Rebecca Gervasi and Michelle Land, the two women are working on a campaign of collecting new toys and other gifts for children, ages 0 to teens, of military families through the first of what they hope will become an annual “Toys for Military Tots” program.
“We are organizing the drive for Porterville Area Republican Assembly,” Gervasi said. “We collect toys and give them to children of active-duty military personnel. It is very hard on the kids living the military life. We want to help their Christmas shine a little brighter.”
Land, cousin to U.S. Army Cpl. Brett Land who was killed November 2010 in Afghanistan, said she realizes the economy is not good for a lot of people but living in a military family, and having children who attend school with other children from military families, has made her realize how hard it is for those who have chosen the most noble career possible.
“The sad thing is, I am astonished as to how little these military families get paid,” Land said. “The children are left behind with one parent struggling to make ends meet. And they are left not understanding the concept of why mom or dad are gone. Even teenagers don’t quite understand. Too often I see the spouse left behind working two jobs.”
It was those reasons that Land said drove her to want to help military families during Christmas.
“I realize a lot of people are struggling,” Land said. “But these kids get forgotten. They don’t qualify for regular toys-for-tots type of programs.”
With two sons of her own, ages 11 and 12, Land said she was inspired by them after she saw them spend their own money to purchase a toy for children of a military family. Her daughter, who is older, also purchased gifts, she said.
“When we took the gifts, it brought tears to my eyes and brought joy because they realized that there are people who are thinking of them and remembering them,” Land said.
“Porterville is such a huge military town. We’re on the map in the nation for the most POWs (Prisoners of War) and Vietnam deaths per capita. And still, a lot of our soldiers are getting killed in combat. These families need our help.”
Unfortunately, Land said, though passionate about what she is doing, a lot of people are not responding.
“We started after Thanksgiving but haven’t received very much. People just don’t stop to think about it,” Land said. “It doesn’t have to be much. It could be a gift card, a coloring book with crayons, a new book — it does not have to cost a lot.”
Though the toys are mainly for any family in the area that is struggling, children from other areas will be considered if there are enough gifts, Land said.
And in the event that they receive more gifts than needed, any abundance would be donated to the regular “Toys for Tots” program sponsored by the Salvation Army.
“We’re trying to make this a big annual thing. Companies and businesses can get tax write-offs and we will acknowledge their gifts,” Land said. “But the most important thing to do is that we want to thank the men and women serving in the armed forces for what they do. Their kids are born into military families. They don’t have a choice. The men and women who join do. We need to tell those children that what their mom or dad do is so important and is the most honorable thing to do.”
Purchasing a toy or other gift is a small way to thank the parent and the children for their service and what they have given up, Land said.
“We think of the soldiers and forget about the families left behind,” Land said. “We need to think of their bravery and patriotism — and of the kids here who deserve to know how much we appreciate all they too have given up.”
Contact Esther Avila at 784-5000, Ext. 1045, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Toys for MILITARY Tots
Toys and gifts for Military Toys for Tots can be dropped off through Dec. 23 at
- Serenity Salon, 846 N. Main St., Suite 4.
- Tantalyze Tanning Salon, 208 N. Main St.
- Wink Clothing, Jewelry and Accessories, 940 W. Henderson Ave.
- Melson Realty, 444 W. Prospect St., Suite B.
For monetary donations, or large donation of toys, contact Land at email@example.com or at 361-5842.