Awed by the Marine Spirit and Toys for Tots
A guest installment by Delilah Scott, operations manager for Big Key Self Storage
Each year, the Marine Corps gathers its finest soldiers in the reserves to work on the humble and wonderful act of participating in Toys for Tots. They add Santa hats to their uniforms as they sort, gather, pack and ship thousands of donated toys to needy children. For years, every facility I manage has become a drop-off location for Toys for Tots and enjoyed the perks that come with participating in the program.
At Big Key Self Storage, we even donate the use of our truck during the holidays for the Marines to use for their toy pickups. Last year, I started going to events with the Marines to help with collections. It’s a lot of fun; plus the Marines look so sharp in their uniforms. We have a good time at every function.
This year was different for me. In addition to everything else, I also volunteered at the Marine base in Miami. The Marine Corps has defended freedom and democracy since 1775, and its soldiers have earned a well-deserved reputation for toughness. But volunteering at the base gave me an insider’s view of the Toys for Tots program, and I was witness to the extraordinary Marine spirit that springs from a genuine concern for the communities in which they live and their deep compassion for the underprivileged children of America. This spirit is exemplified in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program, which has benefited communities since 1947.
My first assignment was to meet at a store to fulfill a $24,000 donation for new toys. How exciting! I thought to myself: “Shopping. I can do this!” My first instruction was to purchase super-cool toys under $25 each. I worked up a good sweat, as this was more difficult than I thought. But once completed, the toys were loaded into a 26-foot truck and delivered to a warehouse.
Toys that come into the warehouse are counted, sorted by age and gender, and then the orders are filled. We are talking about tens of thousands of toys. If the toys are running low, the Toys for Tots Foundation is contacted to see how much funds are available to go shopping.
I was asked to help sort, and when I got to the warehouse, the purchased toys were ready for counting but needed to be sorted and put together for the orders. As I looked around, I was awed by all the toys, but they still weren’t enough to fill all the orders. How could this be? It made me sad, but right away, I realized there was a lot to do. This was not like past events where we collected toys and then sat back to enjoy a football or hockey game. This was crunch time. I remember thinking, “This whole experience is going to rock my world!”
My first order to fill was for 1,700 toys for one organization. I ended up going back on my days off and after work for the next week and a half. Our U.S. Marines got started every day at 0800, and they were always smiling, laughing and singing along to Christmas Carols or any music on the radio as they hustled around the warehouse.
The Miami base serves the Miami area and Broward County, and just 13 soldiers are responsible for making the local Toys for Tots program a success! During the day, three trucks are out with two Marines each in full uniform doing pickups and taking lots of pictures along the way. This left a rotation of seven soldiers to do everything in the warehouse. During toy pickups at events, there were as few as three Marines working in the warehouse. A couple of individuals from the base and the Navy would help here and there. There were other civilian volunteers as well, but not as many as we really needed. One day the Girl Scouts also came in to help, which was adorable.
The Marines I worked with were great spirited and the most amazing individuals. I noticed they had a sweet tooth, so one day I brought them a cake as a thank you. Throughout the day, all soldiers coming and going had something to say about the cake and how I was just the coolest person they knew. I left for a few hours to shop for more toys (by this time, I was a pro), and when I returned no one had touched the cake.
“You guys love the cake so much, but no one has had any!” I said.
“No, we were waiting on you,” a soldier replied.
So they gathered around and one of the Marines handed me a knife and said, “Please do the honors.”
I left the base with extremely fond memories, and I was able to see firsthand the other side of the spirit of our Marines.
Delilah Scott is operations manager at Big Key Self Storage. Opened in 2008, the facility serves customers in Miami, providing climate-controlled units, truck rental, tenant insurance and moving supplies. For more information, visit www.bigkeyselfstorage.com.
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