Houston sheriff’s deputies join Toys for Tots on toy run

bpurser@macon.comDecember 24, 2013 

WARNER ROBINS -- Houston County sheriff’s deputies joined Toys for Tots convoy on its annual Christmas Eve toy delivery, bringing along coats and shoes to give out to needy children.

Sheriff’s Capt. Ronnie Harlowe said deputies noticed the need for the coats and shoes when helping Toys for Tots hand out toys last year.

“While we were there, it was raining and very cold, and we noticed that some of the children didn’t have shoes or have coats, and we just saw the need,” Harlowe said. “We wanted to do something to try to give back.”

Toys for Tots actually began distributing the new toys donated by the community right after Thanksgiving. The last day for families to pick up toys was Monday. But traditionally on Christmas Eve, a caravan of U.S. Marines and law enforcement officers travel to several neighborhoods to hand out toys in person.

Tuesday, the toy run was led by sheriff’s deputies and state patrol vehicles with lights flashing and sirens wailing. Marines in camouflage uniform followed in military vehicles filled with toys. More Marines in dress uniform rode a red fire truck. Children and parents raced out of homes and across yards as the caravan pulled into their neighborhood.

“I think the toy run is the one that brings the most joy when you actually get to the see the individual kids as they get a toy from a stranger,” said Marine Sgt. Catalina Wiley of the HMLA-773 squadron stationed at Robins Air Force Base. “It kind of puts the Christmas spirit back into their lives that there’s an actual stranger that cares enough for them to do this.”

Michele Angelos and her two children, 10-year-old James and 4-year-old Julie, were among those who greeted the caravan at its first stop in Warner Robins early Tuesday.

“Due to economic issues, unfortunately, the kids weren’t going to be able to get gifts this year,” Michele Angelos said. “This definitely gives them a chance to have at least one gift.

“It also gives the chance for my children to thank the soldiers from Toys for Tots -- the Marines and other soldiers that have come out -- for the service they’ve given our country.”

Teresa Jones brought her 14-year-old son and four nieces and nephews out to greet the caravan. She expressed thankfulness to those who brought the gifts and to those who donated them.

Her nephew, 7-year-old James Leonard got a Batman toy from Toys for Tots and wore home a red jacket from sheriff’s deputies.

“Come here little man,” Harlowe told the boy when he first called him over to try on the jacket.

The jacket fit, much to the obvious delight of the boy.

“Aww, man, that’s you right there,” Harlowe told him. The boy grinned and headed for his aunt.

“Thank you,” he said as his aunt reminded him of his manners.

The caravan was off to its next stop.

To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.

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