Guard launches first-ever toy drive at armory

It’s another tough Christmas season for many local families. And the citizen soldiers of the area are reaching out to the community to help make the holidays brighter for those in need.

Staff Sergeant Chris Stinson, former Marine and training NCO for B-Battery 1-117 FA of the local National Guard Unit, shared plans with the Greenville Lions concerning their first-ever Helping Hands Toy Drive.

“We know there are a lot of people out there still having a hard time. We’ve talked with the folks at DHR and Safe Harbor and it’s a high number of folks who need help this Christmas,” Stinson said.

“So we are working with them to try to help make things easier for them.”

Starting this week, donations are being taken of toys (preferably unopened) along with monetary donations at the Fort Robert E. Steiner National Guard Armory, located at 1053 Pineapple Highway in Greenville (across from Emily’s CafĂ©). Donations are being taken from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 8 a.m. until noon on Saturdays.

Games, dolls, stuffed animals and other toys suitable for infants through age 18 years will all be welcomed.

The drive will wrap up on Saturday, Dec. 20 with refreshments for those who stop by to donate to the worthy cause, Stinson said.

“This is the first time we’ve done this, but we definitely want to make it an annual event. This community has been supportive of us, and we want to become a whole lot more involved in giving back to the community. This is a fine group of folks and we want you all to get to know them better,” Stinson said.

The local NG unit is the only combat-armed NG unit in Alabama, with three full-time soldiers and 84 current National Guard members, with capacity for 103.

The unit just returned from camp where they were the first unit to fire the air-portable and air-droppable M777 artillery, winning more than 25 awards, including two of the highest awards given in 2010 by the National Guard.