Thomson Middle School Principal Claude Powell was overwhelmed. For the past several years, the middle school students have gathered donations for the Marines Toys for Tots program. This year, the family of former sixth grade language arts teacher Beth Newsome requested donations be made to the school's toy drive in lieu of flowers for her funeral.
"(The donations) really picked up steam after that," Mr. Powell said. "It is overwhelming. We probably received three times more toys than in years past."
Marine Corps soldiers from Augusta arrived at the school last Thursday to pick up the toys, which sixth grade students helped them bag and load on the truck. The two servicemen, HM1 Todd Balla and SSgt. Byron Filmore, said they are active from Oct.1 until the end of December gathering the toys.
"It's a great way to give back to the community," SSgt. Filmore said. "We see these toys go into the hands of children locally. People don't realize when they give that it helps the children right here."
Before the Marines arrived, the toys filled the stage in the auditorium at the middle school, and included two new bicycles. HM1 Balla said he delivered some of the toys to a battered women's shelter in Augusta last year, "and the looks on their faces were wonderful. It was all worth it."
And that is the same reason it was perfect for the Newsome family to honor Mrs. Newsome with the toy drive, according to the principal.
"Mrs. Newsome's passion was children," he said. "And (her family) realized that bringing a smile to a child's face on Christmas morning is what she would want to do."
To make donations to Toys for Tots, call the Coordination Center at 706-533-2677.