Military parents in southwest Illinois and the surrounding area were given some help putting gifts under the Christmas tree Sunday.
About 400 toys, plus stocking stuffers and school supplies were distributed to military families at the Belleville VFW hall, just outside Scott Air Force Base.
Parents were able to select one large toy for each of their children from a variety of items donated by individuals and corporations.
Angela Mayfield selected legos, a craft set, and grooming kit for her three kids. She said she came to volunteer but was encouraged to pick out toys for her children. Her husband is currently deployed to Afghanistan.
“It means a lot, it really does,” Mayfield said. “And I know my husband really appreciates it—that he’s deployed and there’s still people here that take care of his family.”
The toy drive was organized by Operation Homefront Central Midwest and staffed with volunteers.
“It’s a good way to bring the communities together with the military families,” Darcy Clardy, the organization’s executive director, said. “Everything comes in, it’s donated. So it’s a nice way for the communities to show their support still for the military families. And it helps offset their expenses for other Christmas shopping and things like that as well.”
Children who came along for the trip also got to visit with Santa. Joshua Eickhoff took the opportunity to take a picture of his three younger children with the Christmas icon. He works full-time for the Illinois National Guard and said he knew the man playing Santa.
Follow Camille Phillips on Twitter: @cmpcamille.