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Filling up stockings: Marine Corps League holds Toys for Tots drives

Local first responders and members of the Marine Corps League teamed up on Saturday and Sunday to collect toys and donations for Toys for Tots.

Volunteers from Georgia State Patrol, the Troup County Sheriff’s Office, the LaGrange Police Department, the Hogansville Police Department, American Medical Response, the LaGrange Fire Department, the Troup County Fire Department, Nations Unlimited and students from Troup High School spent a portion of their weekend taking up donations at Walmart on New Franklin Road in LaGrange.

“Everyone seems to have a smile on their face. They really enjoy helping out,” said Amber Terry with American Medical Response. “I think it really helps having everyone from different agencies out here helping as well.”

The weather over the weekend was cold and rainy, forcing the volunteers inside as they collected donations. However, that didn’t stop the donations from coming in.

“There are bags and bags of toys out there,” Terry said. “There are bicycles donated. Every money donation that was given, toys are bought with that money, and it does go back to the community.”

Toys for Tots is a nationwide Marine campaign, but the local chapter — the Charles F. Waller detachment 1040 — takes it very seriously. Al Yates, the Commandant of the Department of Georgia Marine Corps League, is coordinating the drive this year. Bernard Bledsoe, who has led the Marine Corps League’s effort in past years, also played a large role, as well as other members of the league.

“It is very important that every child wakes up on Christmas morning with a toy,” Yates said. “There are so many disadvantaged people in this county, and we don’t even realize that.”

Bledsoe said the Empty Stocking Funds of LaGrange and Hogansville and the Salvation Army will begin distributing toys this week. The Marine Corps League has already used many of the monetary donations to buy gifts.

“It took several years for it to grow into something substantial, but we feel like the community recognizes it and really does support us,” Bledsoe said.

Tunes for Tots, in its eighth year, was also held on Saturday night at Main Street Pub. Four local bands and a DJ came together for the annual show, which asked for a $10 donation or an unwrapped toy.

Josh East and Derrick Bryan have been long-time participants and organizers of the event.

“There’s nothing else that gives me the feeling that I get when I do this show,” East said.

Bryan said they usually raise several thousands of dollars plus several boxes of toys. The event has changed venues over the years, but has been at Main Street Pub the last few years.

“It’s all about the kids in our community,” Bryan said. “It doesn’t go outside. This is for Troup County kids.”