Published Sunday, February 17, 2013
By MARIANNE THOMASSON
Coweta’s Toys for Tots teamed up with Fayette County’s program for the Christmas season 2012 and is adding Heard County for 2014, according to Hank Berkowitz, director of the local effort.
Berkowitz addressed a group of volunteers at an awards dinner Feb. 9 at the American Legion in Newnan.
Some years ago, toy donations to Toys for Tots left Coweta County and went to children in other metro counties. Hank Berkowitz worked the Marine political machine to keep Coweta’s donations in Coweta.
Coweta has now teamed with Fayette County.
“We served 1,925 children in Coweta County and 2,400 in Fayette County,” he said. “Because Fayette County had so many donations, they shared with us. We have an over-abundance every year and we’re going to take on Heard County this coming year. Let’s share,” he said.
The local team is working extra hard to register children who are “medically fragile,” he said.
The all-volunteer agency puts huge boxes at all of the fire stations and in businesses. Then volunteers empty the boxes every few days and they are taken to a warehouse where they are sorted by age-appropriateness. As children are registered, the toys are put in bags and taken to the American Legion where volunteers collect and deliver them. It is Berkowitz’s goal to someday have the gifts delivered on fire trucks with Santa in his full outfit, accompanied by Marines in dress blues.
Monetary donations are also sought because Toys for Tots allows toys only. Funds raised go toward the purchase of gifts for young teens.
All money and gift donations are inventoried and are audited by the Marines before, during and after each drive.
Some of the award recipients commented on their “enjoyable grind.”
Jerry Robinette said, “We had a fantastic transportation group this year. We picked up over 4,000 toys from organizations and businesses, and trying to find 16 fire stations was tough enough!”
Gary Ivey helped raise funds. He said, “When I was growing up, I lived in the projects in Atlanta. My dad lost his job. I remember Toys for Tots and want to give back.”
Another volunteer commented, “I wouldn’t have done anything else. This is so much of my life. I’m blessed to be able to help. In the middle of October, my family doesn’t see me anymore until Christmas. If I didn’t help, I would feel lost.”
Toys for Tots is a nationwide program that was created in 1947. There are 750 campaigns for Toys for Tots nationwide.
Berkowitz concluded that the program is two-way.
“We give to the children and they give us thanks. We may not always hear the word ‘thanks,’ but you can see it in their eyes.”