For over six years, Davidson County Young Marines Unit Commander and veteran Marine Jerry Foy has led the Davidson County Toys for Tots Campaign, giving a holiday of blessings to young children throughout the county.
Each year, the national Toys for Tots campaign launches its annual initiative at the end of October and continues through mid-December. Jerry Foy says, “With each year we see more and more requests for donations as our community has been hit extremely hard.”
Last year alone, Davidson County filled requests for more than 390 families.
Foy became the Toys for Tots campaign coordinator for Davidson County in 2006. One year later he developed the Young Marines program for our youth here in the county. “Since 2006, we have been able to fill all of the donation requests and we hope to continue to do so,” says Foy.
Although the national Toys for Tots campaign contributes monetarily to the Davidson County program, the community is the driving force behind the donations and the ability to fill all donation requests. “If it wouldn’t be for our local donations, this campaign would not be a success,” according to Foy.
The campaign works by having local residents drop off new and unwrapped toys to various business establishments throughout Davidson County. Boxes are clearly marked as Davidson County Toys for Tots donation boxes. “All of the donations collected in our community stay in our community,” says Foy.
If you make a donation in a Davidson County box, that toy will in turn be donated to a child in need who lives in Davidson County. “We are so appreciative of all the donations we’ve received over the years, but every year we get more requests and we have to get more toys to fulfill those requests.”
The Young Marines work in the distribution center sorting and tagging bags of toys leading up to the big day. “This campaign is an ongoing effort that starts in October and these Young Marines work hard to ensure children in need have a Christmas,” states Foy.
In mid-December, those who have received approval for their requests receive a confirmation number and stop by the distribution center location, which has not been secured at this time, where they pick-up the bag of toys.
Requests for donations come through the national Toys for Tots website www.toysfortots.org. Monetary donations can be made on the website as well. All the requests and financial contributions are allocated to the Davidson County division, so your money stays in the local community.
In addition to picking up donation boxes full of toys, Jerry Foy gets to shop for toys as well.
“There are local retailers that have offered discounted prices for the Toys for Tots purchase of toys, as well I get to purchase toys from our national partner, Toys ‘R Us,” says Foy. “These extra partnerships allow us to add to our donations each year.”
In recent years, additional local partnerships have also grown. The program provides toys for area non-profit organizations like Crisis Ministries of Davidson County, Davidson County Family Services, Thomasville Corporate Ministries and The Father’s Storehouse also in Thomasville.
More Than Gifts
Although the Toys for Tots program may only take place one time a year, the Young Marines of Davidson County is an ongoing program that serves throughout the year. In 2007, Jerry Foy started the national program in Davidson County. The Young Marines meet weekly where they learn life skills. The core values of the program are leadership, discipline and teamwork.
“The program is not about recruiting future service men and women, but about teaching them how to respect others and grow into healthy adults that promote and live healthy, drug-free lifestyles,” according to Foy. There are currently 40 members ranging in age from eight to 18 years-old or completion of high school.
The Davidson County program currently has two members in active duty and three preparing to go into active duty upon graduating from high school. “When they have completed the Young Marines program and choose to go into active duty, they enter the military at sergeant level, which is one step higher than private,” says Foy.
As part of the program, each student is required to fulfill 50 hours of community service every year. Community service credit can include involvement in community service activities with the Young Marines, or by providing community service through their own arrangements. The Davidson County Young Marines provide volunteer hours for Spin 4 Life, Davidson County Family Services and various other non-profit organizations throughout the year.
Recently, the group volunteered during the Operation North State Wounded Warrior pier fishing event in Oak Island, NC. They helped wounded warriors during the event with food and beverages as well as basic needs for the day. As the holidays approach, the Young
Marines will participate in a campaign where they will visit local veterans and hand out Christmas cards. The Young Marines also visit area veterans hospitals and nursing homes and participate in area Veteran’s Day Parades.
Every year, the unit takes one big trip and 2015 will be no different. The group will be visiting Window Rock, AZ where they will meet with the Navajo “Code Talkers.” These Navajo Code Talkers were instrumental to the United States in WWII. As other countries were breaking U.S. code during the war, the U.S. met with the Navajo Indian Tribe and with their cooperation translated English into the Native American Navajo language. This brought an end to the codes being broken and allowed for communications to be received during heated WWII battles.
“We take great pride in our youth and the Young Marines program and love watching them grow into quality American citizens,” says Foy.
To join the Young Marines of Davidson County you can simply attend a weekly meeting or visit the national website www.youngmarines.com for more information. The groups meet on Mondays from 6:30–8:30 p.m. in the Public Safety building at Davidson County Community College and on Thursday’s from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. at Liberty Drive School in Thomasville.