Hundreds of deserving families waited in line outside the Salem Bible Fellowship Church in Lehighton, as 534 local families, consisting of 2,229 children, were given a brighter Christmas this year during the first of two annual Schuylkill Carbon Marine Corps League (SCMCL) Detachment 626 Toys For Tots and Tamaqua Salvation Army holiday toy and food distributions held Saturday. The SCMCL's and Salvation Army's second toy and food distribution was held this morning at the Tamaqua Salvation Army, in which an additional 120 families consisting of over 287 kids also received Toys For Tots, Salvation Army Angel Tree gifts and food.
The SCMCL, which was chartered in 1986 and currently has 67 members, got involved with Toys For Tots during their first year. The League became an official Toys for Tots local community organization in 2002 and is currently the only official organization in the area to run the program.
A number of locations have served as Toys For Tots distribution locations, the first being a building in Jim Thorpe. After that, other locations served as distribution points, such as the Lehighton Fire Company, Lehighton PA National Guard Armory, Big Lots Warehouse, another warehouse in Lehighton. The Salem Bible Fellowship Church has served as the distribution and support site for the SCMCL's Toys For Tots Campaign for three years now.
Tweleve-year League member Cheryl Laub, who has served as the League's coordinator since 2001, said, "The number of families needing assistance is steadily increasing every year. This year's need was the highest we've everhad to help. Hundreds of combined volunteer hours are given every year fromthese Marine Corps League members, Salvation Army and community volunteers.
Without them, we couldn't help all these people." During the first year, the League helped about 100 families receive a betterChristmas. This drive has grown to help thousands of children every year.
The coverage area for all the families receiving these Toys For Tots and food at these distributions consist locally of Carbon and Eastern Schuylkill county. The Lehighton Salem Bible Fellowship Church donated their location, parishioners, volunteers, and comfort services for this year's Lehighton distribution. Students from the Panther Valley and Lehighton school also helped during the Lehighton distribution.
Even though the League's need for used toys has lessened, League members Ed Glassic and Leon Frohnheiser still remember all the time spent in early years repairing, painting, and cleaning used toys in preparation for their distribution.
The Laubs and Tamaqua Salvation Army Major Sharon Whispell both stressed their appreciation for all the contributions, sponsors, volunteers, and yearly support from the community.
Melissa Pankevitch, Lehighton, who received Toys For Tots for her three children, stated, "I really appreciate the Marines, Salvation Army, God, and all the helpful volunteers that come out to help everyone during these tough times." Past Commander, current Toys For Tots volunteer and League member since 1991, James Laub, stated, "No one realizes how poor some of their neighbors really are. Better is that we, as Marines, do this because we feel it is important to help those who can't otherwise help themselves. We expect no glory no payment, no recognition. We are doing this because it is the right thing to do. We think the people in the community who volunteer and the friends and businesses who donate and provide the toys we give out are the true heroes of this program. Thank You to everyone who has ever helped in any way for keeping this program going. There is an every-growing amount of children in our local communities who are very grateful for the presents you give them, and we are grateful for the smiles these toys put on all their faces. Semper Fidelis (which is the Corps' motto for "Always Faithful").
Current SCMCL Commander Tom Fenon stated, "Jesus is the reason for season. Our Marine Corps motto is God, Country, Corps. Semper Fidelis!"