Even a feel-good holiday story can contain an element of sobering reality.
We read about in a recent story, and have noted in previous years, a dedicated group of former Marines that has for nearly three decades provided toys for children of families in need in Greene County through the Toys for Tots program. If there is a Santa Claus, and we have no reason to doubt there is, then John “Buzz” Walters is one of Santa’s most loyal helpers.
Walters, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, is commandant for Tri-County Leathernecks and in charge of Toys for Tots. He has been working for this organization almost since its inception in 1982, eventually succeeding the late Dick Morgan, who spearheaded the collection of toys for 21 years before he died in 2003.
This organization has brought smiles to children on Christmas morning by working with many local organizations in seeing that toys get to needy children throughout Greene County.
The organization distributed toys under the banner of the Marine Corps Foundation’s Toys for Tots program, but the toy distribution now operates more efficiently under local control for pickup, administration and distribution.
The Leathernecks organization consists mostly of veterans who served in the Marines, and though its number is down to the bare-bones minimum, this past year was considered a successful one.
At the beginning, the Leathernecks had more than 40 members to help with the program. The group would accept used toys, sleds and bicycles, and members would refurbish them to look like new.
The group no longer has enough people to refurbish toys, and nowadays it receives many of the toys from members of the community who leave them at drop-off boxes placed at businesses throughout the county.
But the program still works because the community supports it, Walters said. “Some of our boxes are filled up more than once.”
Yet, through the years, the number of active Leathernecks has dwindled, leaving the program’s operations to only a few.
While this dedicated group, with the help of volunteers, is able to fulfill its mission, we think it might be time for some service organizations, like Waynesburg Rotary or Waynesburg Lions Club, to step up and offer a hand.
And it is also time for all Marine veterans in Greene County to come forward and offer to help next year.
We recognize these organizations have a host of projects they work on throughout the year, but their numbers are larger and their members much younger.
It would be a shame if the local organization could no longer provide toys for children because of its dwindling membership.
Walters said he gets a lot of people to help out, including the Waynesburg Women of the Moose and local high school students.
Like good Marines, this group keeps going at it and going at it, but the reality is they keep getting older and older.
There is no question that the Tri-County Leathernecks believe in the program, but they also believe someone eventually will have to take the reins.
We hope someone out there is listening.