Making a difference in the lives of children is what dozens of state troopers in East Central Georgia are doing this Christmas through Toys for Tots.
Without the generosity of the troopers and their families, hundreds of underprivileged children wouldn't have gifts this Christmas.
The Toys for Tots Christmas campaign was started back in 1930 by the U.S. Marine Corps. Every year, thousands and thousands of kids are given a much brighter Christmas as a result of people providing new unwrapped toys for girls and boys. Collection efforts of toys by state troopers will be taken to Augusta where they will be distributed in area communities to make this holiday season brighter for many youngsters.
"This is a project that has really touched me and warms my heart," said GSP Trooper First Class Crystal Griffin of the Milledgeville post.
She came up with the idea based on her the fact that her father is a retired U.S. Marine and that the Marines have played such an integral role in helping underprivileged children for many years through the Toys for Tots Christmas program. This year is no exception, even though tough economic conditions have greatly affected toy-giving in many larger cities across the country.
"We're determined to make this as successful as possible," said Cpl. Griffin, who visited the Georgia State Patrol post in Thomson last week to pick up dozens of new toys donated by local troopers and other employees there. "It's great to see that so many troopers are supporting this effort."
The Thomson GSP post is among five posts involved in this year's Toys for Tots program. The other four posts participating within GSP Troop E include Milledgeville, Washington, Madison and Conyers.
"I commend her for taking up this endeavor," said GSP Lt. Donnie Smith. "We're proud to be part of an organization that gives back to the communities that we serve."
Thomson GSP Post Commander Sgt. First Class Jason Johnson said Cpl. Griffin's idea has touched lots of hearts within his post.
"We jumped on the idea here in Thomson," said Sgt. Johnson. "All of our troopers have contributed to this worthy cause and I'm real proud of them. They've given from their hearts and that says so much about them."
Cpl. Chris Wright of the Thomson GSP post applauds the efforts of Cpl. Griffin.
"What she's doing is a great idea," Cpl. Wright said, noting that troopers have what he refers to as "front row seats to our communities."
It's a window into the communities that other professions don't offer, contends Cpl. Wright.
"We have a heightened sense of what's going on in the communities and many of the needs of the communities that we serve because many of us live in those same communities," said Cpl. Wright. "It's heartbreaking to think that many kids won't experience what many of us were fortunate to have experienced as children growing up at Christmas."
That was one of the primary reasons that Cpl. Griffin got involved in the Toys for Tots program.
"I figured that if I could involve my post in this program that I could do more," said Cpl. Griffin, who has worked with the Georgia State Patrol for the past seven years. During an interview with The McDuffie Mirror, Cpl. Griffin said she was supported in her efforts by post commanders who encouraged their troopers to donate at least two new toys.
"We've have an overwhelming response from those that work at these five posts and their families," added Cpl. Griffin, a former deputy sheriff in Bainbridge, Ga. and a police officer in Albany, Ga. "I'd like to involve more posts next Christmas. Every child deserves a Christmas morning. Christmas is about children."
Cpl. Griffin said helping those less fortunate "is the best feeling in the world. Every child deserves to get excited about Christmas. It's a magical time of the year."
It's also a time to remember the birth of Jesus Christ.
"I'm really proud of how everybody has pulled together and helped to make this Christmas special for so many children," said Cpl. Griffin.