Schools such as Entourage school, Raymond-Knowles Elementary in Raymond, CA have participated in the Toys for Tots Campaign each year. Toys for Tots is a national charity organized by United States Marines and local volunteer groups that distribute donated toys to children in need and as of 2016, has collected and distributed more than 512 million toys. In Eastern Madera county, several businesses and schools have volunteered to set up collection sites. Dennis Osantowski, in his 4th year as Toys for Tots Coordinator, says “Toys for Tots…can’t happen without the volunteers and the giving nature of our mountain area residents, businesses and organizations.” Campaigns such as Toys for Tots are a team effort. Not only do they help brighten the smiles of children in need, they bring people together who work in unity for an incredible cause. The campaign continues to be a success year after year because of the hard work and assistance of volunteers and heartfelt donations from members of the community.
Other ways in which organizations have made a difference in their communities this year is to sponsor families in need. Entourage Yearbooks has been working with the Air Command and Staff College (ACSC) in Montgomery, AL for the past few years. The spouses and service members of the ACSC volunteer and take part in several projects throughout the year while stationed at Maxwell Air Force base. We spoke with Crystal Sais who along with 20 plus military families this year worked with Hands on River Region to sponsor two families in need this holiday season. One family is a single mother with three children as well as a nephew she is working to adopt. Their home flooded when a burst pipe destroyed all of their furniture and belongings. ACSC students and spouses have collected and delivered several items of furniture to assist them in furnishing the apartment they will be moving to. The second family is also a single mother of 3 and they were without power for 2-3 weeks. The ACSC community helped them to reestablish power just in time for Thanksgiving. In addition to this, clothing and toys have been purchased for the children of both families this holiday season as well as cleaners, towels, robes and housewares for the mothers. Gift cards to local stores like Wal-Mart have been provided as well and will help these families to go forward in purchasing items they may need in the future.
In the next couple of weeks, the families who have donated will get together to wrap the gifts and deliver them along with a home-cooked meal to the families in need. Of the volunteers and generous donors she has worked alongside, Crystal says, “The generosity and kindness that each of our members- and folks throughout the ACSC class, has shown is incredibly humbling and inspiring.” Some other projects the ACSC community takes part in throughout the year is an annual food drive, assisting the Salvation Army to collect donations at area stores, providing necessities to adoptable pets at the Montgomery Humane Society, sending Holiday Care Packages to the troops separated from their families this holiday season, monthly blood drives for the American Red Cross, donating decorations to holiday programs at local schools, etc. Crystal adds, “Our ACSC families are making a real difference in the lives of those in our local community. I am filled with such gratitude to be a part of it.” Crystal would like to give a special thanks to all ACSC families who participated in Hands on River Region and all who continue to volunteer their time and services to important causes.
Entourage wishes to thank Raymond-Knowles Elementary for their contributions and participation in the Toys for Tots campaign as well as the incredible community at the Air Command and Staff College for positively impacting the lives of others. This holiday season, their giving spirit serves as an inspiration to all!