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With Marine Toys for Tots, Anyone Can Be Santa

(NewsUSA) - The mission of the Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program is to bring hope and joy to children in need through the gift of a new toy, book, or game, at Christmastime and throughout the year.

Each year, the Program strives to reach more underprivileged children, and the success of the mission is made possible by the generosity of the American public. No matter how an individual, company, family, or organization donates, every supporter has a story, and, in their own way, everyone who contributes and supports Toys for Tots can be “Santa” to children in need.

One such Santa is Mr. Irwin Chu. For 20 years, Mr. Chu has been bringing joy and hope to impoverished children through his “Miles of Smiles Bike Drive,” which he created to honor the memory of his son, who was killed in a car accident at age 16.

“As a family tradition, each of us always gave a bike and helmet to the ExxonMobil toy drive in Maryland,” said Mr. Chu. After his son’s death, the family honored his memory by continuing the tradition of donating bikes and helmets to children in need. As the years passed, friends and other community members joined in, and soon, Mr. Chu was donating over 1,000 bikes a year. With the influx of donations, the storage space became even more limited at ExxonMobil, so Mr. Chu reached out to the local Toys for Tots campaign and asked if the Marines on base could assist with the assembly—of course, the Marines stepped up! Throughout the past 20 years, the bike donation has continued to grow, and numerous volunteers have gathered at the Marine Corps base to be “Secret Santas” to assemble bikes and helmets for distribution to less fortunate children.

The support from the community members, individuals like Mr. Chu, as well as donors across the Nation, have a far-reaching and lifelong impacts on the underprivileged children in their local area—and the positive memories can have a rippling effect on their future choices in life. Just like the impact that one donor’s gift had on a young girl, who now serves in the United States Marine Corps— the “Secret Santa” not only gifted this young girl with a toy, but also instilled hope for a brighter future.

Major Mariela Pena, a United States Marine assigned to 1st MLG, I MEF, knows firsthand that anyone can be Santa. Maj. Pena was a recipient of Toys for Tots as an immigrant from Nicaragua in 1987 when she was nine years old. Maj Pena’s family was grateful to be together in San Jose, California, for their first Christmas in the United States, but resources were scarce, and the family had decided to conserve funds and forego Christmas gifts.

A few days before Christmas, Maj Pena and her family walked outside to see Marines in uniform stepping out of a five-ton truck, filled with toys. Maj Pena recalls, “We got the biggest Christmas I think we had ever experienced in our entire lives. I got a yellow bunny stuffed animal that I also used as a pillow.”

Sometimes, it’s not just the physical gift of the toy that resonates with a child—receiving the stuffed animal meant much more than just a Christmas gift to Maj Pena in that moment. “I remember coming outside of the house and seeing the five-ton truck full of toys, and I [knew] that I was going to drive trucks in the Marine Corps, forever,” said Maj Pena. For 26 years, Maj Pena has been serving our country. The “Secret Santa” who donated the yellow bunny not only gave Maj Pena a gift at Christmas, but also gave her hope and inspiration to become a United States Marine.

Toys for Tots is fortunate to have “Secret Santas” across the Nation, and they are “Secret Santas” for a variety of reasons. From physically donating, to lending a hand during a toy distribution, the support that our donors and campaign volunteers give sends a message of hope for a brighter future. Because what may seem like a simple contribution of time or money can give a lifetime of hope and a security—that’s the magic that Santa brings to families and children in need across the country.

Give now, and help make this a hopeful, happy Christmas for less fortunate children across our great Nation! When you give to Marine Toys for Tots, 97% of your tax-deductible gift goes directly to buying the toys, books, and games that give children in need the Christmas they deserve. Visit to make a difference and change a life! After all—anyone can be Santa!

Donate to Toys for Tots on Giving TOYSday

(NewsUSA) - This holiday season, the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program celebrates its 75th year of delivering hope and joy to children in need across the Nation. Marines and volunteers are busy engaging with local businesses, media and community leaders to collect new, unwrapped toys to ensure that every child in need in their community has a present to open on Christmas morning.     

As the 2022 campaign season hits the halfway mark, Toys for Tots is asking for support from the American public now more than ever. Families across the Nation continue to deal with the continuing rise of inflation and other economic challenges. When families are struggling to make financial ends meet, giving their children a Merry Christmas can feel entirely out of their reach.       

That’s where you can help! Marine Toys for Tots encourages the American public to consider donating on November 29, which is globally known as Giving Tuesday -- but at Toys for Tots it’s Giving TOYSday! Every Giving TOYSday gift will deliver the joy of a new toy, book, or game at Christmastime to our Nation’s less fortunate children.     

“Since Marine Toys for Tots Program’s inception in 1947 with a single hand-crafted doll, we have distributed 627 million toys to over 281 million children in need over seven decades. We’ve adapted and overcome many challenges, but always accomplished the mission,” says Lieutenant General Jim Laster, USMC (Retired), President & CEO of the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation.     

“Today’s children are tomorrow’s future, and Marine Toys for Tots is dedicated to ensuring a brighter future for children living in challenging circumstances,” he adds. “Your Giving TOYSday gift is urgently needed to help us ensure that no child wakes up brokenhearted on Christmas morning.”     

Our Coordinators and volunteers are working around the clock to collect and sort toys that are generously donated across local campaigns. The gifts that our donors give can be the reason a child and their family believe in the magic of Christmas again -- and Coordinators can work until the last minute to ensure that “Santa” visits each house. Like our Coordinator Robert, who was making his last toy delivery of the day. He was approached by a local police officer, who mentioned that there was one more child in need who could use a Christmas miracle.     

Robert traveled to the home of the child, and a young boy answered the door with his mother. To Robert’s surprise, there were no Christmas decorations, no tree -- nothing representing the holiday season. The mother simply couldn’t afford it. But thanks to our loyal supporters, the boy and his mother received a Merry Christmas. Robert returned from his car with a bag full of Christmas gifts for the young boy. These gifts were made possible by our faithful donors -- they saved Christmas for this family.     

Toys for Tots needs your help to deliver the same magic that Robert delivered, to even more children in need across the Nation. Your gift can be the reason that a child and their family believe in the holiday magic again. Visit to donate on Giving TOYSday, or visit your local campaign website to find other ways to donate this giving season -- and remember that anyone can be Santa! 

Veteran-Led Coffee Company Will Fuel Your Fundraising

(NewsUSA) - Put the fun in your fundraising efforts with the power of coffee, a user-friendly website and the business acumen of a veteran-led nonprofit company that has been building donor trust since 2016.     

The Coffee Platoon will help raise funds for any school, organizational group, sports team, non-profit organization, or any programs, activities, and services in need of funds anywhere in the United States.     

Inflation is hitting everyone this year, and online fundraising offers a simple and cost-effective way to raise funds with no initial cost, no managing of inventory and no need to collect money in person. You can raise funds by providing your supporters with two things nearly half the population of the United States enjoys every day -- 100% Arabica coffee freshly ground and delicious hot chocolate -- for your campaign.      

“We have created an easy, fun way for all types of organizations to earn much-needed revenue to sustain programs, services and improvements,” says Mike Ferraro, founder of Bridging the Gap for Veterans, a nonprofit veteran-founded and -led organization that works to support career transitions for veterans to assist with hiring.     Bridging the Gap’s missions include career transition programs and coaching, educational scholarships, service animal programs, offering free professional business attire to veterans and online coffee fundraising.   

 “Our delicious coffee and hot chocolate products are sure to be a hit,” Ferraro adds.     

Getting started couldn’t be easier. Sign up through The Coffee Platoon online portal. This process generates a unique and customized link for your fundraiser.     

Share the link with friends, family, listservs, club memberships or anyone you want to reach with your fundraiser. Share the link in an email, or post on social media.     

The benefits are instant -- you can start earning on the first day! Contributors follow the link, select their coffee and submit their orders. Coffee flavors range from mild to dark, with blends inspired by the U.S. military. Check your progress throughout your campaign via a real-time running tally of all sales and purchase recipients on an easy-to-read, data-capturing spreadsheet.     

Mission accomplished! The orders are delivered, your supporters enjoy their coffee, and your organization benefits. Fundraising groups are paid immediately upon conclusion of the campaign, which can go for any duration -- most are four to six weeks.     

Two separate goals -- one mission -- to help others! Giving Tuesday is coming up, so it’s a great time to assess your fundraising needs for the holiday season and also to give your own support to the Coffee Platoon --  a victory for everyone involved.     

Visit for more information. 

Don’t Discount the Value of Donations to Our Troops

(NewsUSA) - Over the last decade, America has been fortunate to avoid major conflict overseas. However, thousands of American military troops are currently deployed around the world, on active-duty service in more than 100 countries. These troops, though not in the public eye, perform missions that are critical to protecting our way of life and making the world a safer place.     

American troops often need support in the form of critical supplies to stay safe and perform at their best. In some cases, troops lack new equipment to update obsolete models, or they can’t get what they need because of contract issues, supply chain glitches, or other administrative hurdles.     

Troops Direct fills the gaps, with a team organized to respond to the requests of our military and provide an ongoing supply of hygiene products, nutrition, medical supplies and operational gear necessary for troops to perform their duties and save lives.     

Troops Direct has no political agenda. Instead, the organization’s goal is to empower and protect the heroes who make the world a safer place for all every day.     Unlike other charities that supply care packages and comforts from home, the Troops Direct unique ‘on demand’ model delivers U.S. service members exactly what they need in the areas of medical, tactical, communications, K9 or disaster response, shipped to wherever they require it in a matter of days, which can make a dramatic impact on the lives and successes of soldiers in the field.     

Items sent by Troops Direct include replacement uniforms and footwear, land mine threat mitigation, medical kits, K-9 care, parachute rigging equipment, sleeping systems, tactical belts, nutritional staples, tourniquets and stretchers.     

“This model has a near-real-time response rate to troop requests, and the feedback from our troops conveys the saving of lives and limbs and the success of missions,” says Aaron Negherbon, Founder and Executive Director of Troops Direct. “Troops Direct has helped save lives across the country and throughout the world due to generous support of public and private donations,” he emphasizes.     

Troops Direct is funded entirely by donations, with no charge to the troops, and provides supplies to members of any and all branches of military service, anywhere in the world.     

Visit for more information.

Fifth Annual Fire Department Contest Highlights Grain Bin Safety

To help reduce the risk of death and injury from grain bin accidents and to educate first responders about rescue procedures, Nationwide, the number one farm insurer in the United States, is sponsoring its fifth annual Nominate Your Fire Department Contest in conjunction with Grain Bin Safety Week.

The goal of the campaign is to educate farm workers and first responders about safe bin-entry procedures, including maintaining quality grain, testing bin atmosphere for toxic gases, and wearing proper safety equipment.

Since 2014, Nationwide has awarded grain bin rescue tubes and training sessions to 48 fire departments in 18 states.

"It felt like an eternity," Glenville Fire Chief Matt Webb, of Glenville, Minnesota, a recipient of Nationwide's grain bin rescue training, said in an interview.

Webb put his skills to the test when he saved a man who had fallen into a bin of rotting corn.

"The grain rescue training came back quickly, and it was a relief we had our own equipment. The program that's out there for these tubes and training is such a life-saving resource in our county," he says.

Grain Bin Safety Week 2018 takes place February 18-24. Grain Bin Safety Week and the Nominate Your Fire Department Contest are hosted by Nationwide and made possible by the donations of industry sponsors.

"Grain Bin Safety Week would not happen without the generous support of our sponsors," Liggett adds. "We would like to thank every sponsor for making this week and contest a reality."

Grain Bin Safety Week has been officially recognized by governors of Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, West Virginia, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Each year, the NECAS director visits training locations with a grain entrapment simulator and rescue tube to conduct training sessions in rescue and safety procedures.

"Nationwide created this program and joined forces with partners across the country to make it happen for a single purpose - to save lives," says Brad Liggett, president of Nationwide Agribusiness.

Applications for the Nominate Your Fire Department Contest are open until April 30, 2018. Winning fire departments will receive grants for grain bin rescue tubes and training for grain bin rescue procedures.

For more information about the contest or the nomination process, visit

For more information about Nationwide, visit


This Subscription Box Helps People Do Good and Feel Good

Faithbox is a subscription box that meets this need by providing ongoing spiritual support and inspiration, as well as a way to do good works.

Here are a few of its benefits:

Good works: Its charitable focus allows you to do good and affect positive change. Faithbox is a company making a difference to people who want to make a difference. Products in each box are sourced from companies and organizations that don't exploit people or nature. Rather, they support and empower eco-friendly, humane and sustainable organizations.

Consistency: Fresh, thought-provoking tools promote daily practice, which in turn promotes growth, change and improvement in any area of your life. That includes both your spiritual and emotional health.

Convenience: At-home delivery makes it easy to have regular, ongoing access to new and uplifting devotional materials and unique products that embody good works. This convenience is especially helpful for anyone who wants to find new, faith-based products, or who lives in a remote area where they might not be readily available.

For many people, a regular dose of inspiration, along with the anticipation of something positive and new every month, is a strong way to supplement their spiritual journeys. Faithbox's devotional materials and products are built around a monthly theme, such as Leadership, Journey, Grief, Connection, Transformation and others. Each product in Faithbox is mindfully and conscientiously curated based on the month's theme. Faithbox has several subscription options, including monthly, three-month and one year.

Visit for inspiration and more information.


Feature-Rich Dog Parks Are Coming to Towns Across America

Today, it is rare and often illegal to let a dog roam off-leash. Even large parks usually have leash laws. At the same time, dog ownership is growing.

According to the American Pet Products Association, there are over 60 million US households with at least one dog. And those dog owners are increasingly looking for places to let their dogs run and socialize off-leash.

Some communities have solved this by creating off-leash areas such as fenced-in parks where people can let Spot run free.

According to the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, a good dog park has a few essential features. The basics are bags and trash cans for cleaning up after dogs, fresh drinking water, and shade for cooling down.

Ideally, dog parks would include separate entrance and exit gates, allowing everyone to comeand go with not only ease, but safety. And a dual-gate system would help eliminate dogs escaping through any open gate while another dog is entering or leaving through it.

While those are the basics, dog parks are popping up around the country with additional fun features to keep canines safe and happy.

Beau's Dream Dog Park in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania has a tennis ball tree that launches balls for large dogs.

Pilgrim Dog Park in Provincetown, Massachusetts has pet-friendly sculptures designed by local artists that dogs can play on.

Catalyst Experiential is currently designing the Bucks County Dog Park, which will be one of the most feature-laden in the country. The entrance is designed to resemble the two halves of a large, broken dog biscuit. Once they pass through the "dog biscuit" entrance, dogs will find water features, an agility station, ample shade, and even dog-wash facilities inside their park. It's like Disney for dogs!

The dog park is one of many projects that Catalyst Experiential is bringing to communities as a part of their vision to integrate community and communication.

The "broken dog biscuit" entrance to the park features two displays that will enable local government, schools, organizations and businesses to speak directly to the communities they serve, including announcing local events, issuing safety messages, and other timely communications.

A dog lover and owner himself, Catalyst Experiential CEO Thaddeus Bartkowski explains that "while dog ownership has increased, rules and regulations restricting the ability of dogs to run free has unfortunately been on the rise as well."

"What we hope to create is a place where dogs can get the off-leash exercise they deserve to enhance quality of life for both the dogs and their owners," he says.

For more information about Catalyst Experiential, reach out here.


Junior Achievement Reconnects With Alumni for Celebration

Millions of students have benefitted from JA programs, and the organization wants to hear from them as part of the centennial celebration.

Notable JA alumni, known as "Achievers," include Mark Cuban, computer entrepreneur and owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team, ABC News anchor Juju Chang, sportscaster James Brown, and America Online co-founder Steve Case.

Research has shown that students who completed JA programs reported more confidence in their money-management skills and were more likely to finish college and start a business than peers who did not participate in JA programs.

In honor of its centennial, JA wants to reconnect with more of its alumni and encourage them to share their experiences and success stories.

A new website,, provides a forum for students who have been involved with JA to view photo and video archives, as well as share their memories of the organization and how it has impacted their lives. The site also offers opportunities to connect with fellow alumni with links to alumni groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.

JA programs, presented by corporate and community volunteers, are available for kindergarten through high school and reach more than 4.8 million students every year in 107 markets across the United States, plus 5.2 million students in 100 other countries.

The primary goal of the non-profit is to provide youth with the knowledge of the many possibilities available to them, be it going to college, learning a trade, or starting a business.

The programs help students learn the skills to make smart decisions about the future, so they can achieve economic success and financial security in a way that is suited to their interests and abilities.

As the JA website explains in its mission statement, the programs "ignite the spark in young people to experience and realize the opportunities and realities of work and life in the 21st century."

Junior Achievement USA is a member of JA Worldwide.

Visit for more information about JA programs and opportunities to get involved.


Three Lessons From the Past to Help You Understand the 2020 Election

Several aspects of the 2020 election cycle have undoubtedly been unique, with a global pandemic, protests for racial justice and extremist groups threatening violence. But from the civil rights movement to the Great Recession, Americans have previously headed to the polls through war, economic downturn and social instability. As the dust settles after this election, it's worth looking back to the past for a bit of historical context.

"In this crazy year, the best way to figure out what will happen to the country after everything settles down again is to understand our history," says Carlos Watson, Emmy-winning journalist, entrepreneur, political commentator, CEO of OZY and host of The Campaigns That Made History, a two-hour documentary that recently aired on HISTORY, covering the most surprising and shocking political contests of the past. For fans who have been following the burgeoning partnership between OZY, which seems to be the definition of media's omni-channel future, and A+E Networks, which owns networks including HISTORY and Lifetime, the documentary was a rare treat that meets the moment, allowing viewers to jump several steps ahead of the curve this election cycle.

"This isn't the first crazy election we've had -- there have been five of these whoppers just over the past 60 years," said Watson, who has become one of the preeminent new media figures helping the public make sense of this moment in history -- perhaps the next Doris Kearns Goodwin. Here are a few lessons from just three of those "whoppers" to help you contextualize the most recent election.

1. Anti-establishment candidates aren't just a 21st century problem

When Ronald Reagan, a former football player and charismatic actor, challenged President Gerald Ford in 1976, he wasn't afraid of abandoning boring political-speak. "Balancing the budget," as he quipped to Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show, "is like protecting your virtue: You have to learn how to say 'no.'" The California governor came tantalizingly close to defeating the sitting president. And while Reagan lost, Ford urged him to address the Republican National Convention anyway, assuming he would embarrass himself without a teleprompter. That was a mistake: Reagan delivered a stirring speech, putting him on the path to the presidency four years later.

2. How a contested election could play out

"Florida, Florida, Florida." NBC's Tim Russert's election night mantra in 2000 would play out over weeks as the election outcome hung in the balance, and lawyers and activists descended on Florida for a disputed recount. In the end, the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in Bush v. Gore overruled the state of Florida, halting a recount and giving Bush the win more than a month after Election Day.

3. The Proud Boys of 1968

A tumultuous year marked by racial unrest and assassinations of leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and presidential front-runner Robert F. Kennedy ended up with Republican Richard Nixon topping Democrat Hubert Humphrey. But segregationist George Wallace's third-party campaign, representing Southerners who had ditched the pro-civil-rights Democratic Party, was a shock to the system and a sign of things to come. "In 1968, the equivalent of the Proud Boys wasn't just some crazy group on the edge -- they were on the ballot, got 10 million votes and won five states," says Watson.

After more great insights from history? Catch up on The Campaigns That Made History, from OZY and HISTORY, on

PVA Works To End Handicapped Parking Abuse

In a recent survey of 4,000 Americans with disabilities, 95% said that accessible parking was key to their independence, and 85% said they had trouble finding accessible parking in their communities. More than half (52%) reported having to turn back from an errand or appointment because they were unable to find an open handicapped accessible parking space. Some of the biggest problems were spots taken by people who don't really need them, but make an excuse, and the misuse or borrowing of handicapped placards.

PVA was founded by injured Veterans who returned home from World War II but found barriers to independent living that prevented them from finding jobs or using public transportation. Since then, the organization has worked to create a more accessible America. Sadly, for many with disabilities, daily struggles still exist, particularly when it comes to accessible parking.

"People with disabilities deserve better," says David Zurfluh, U.S. Air Force Veteran and PVA national president. PVA has just launched the Honor the Spot campaign to encourage all Americans to be part of the solution.

"It is about educating the public, who may not realize the impact that misusing these spaces, even for a minute, can have on people with disabilities. We want all Americans to join PVA in protecting the freedom and independence of people with disabilities, who may not be able to shop or go to an appointment if the accessible parking is blocked or misused," says Zurfluh.

Issues with handicapped parking are one of PVA members' biggest complaints, and millions of Americans with mobility disabilities are also affected.

To be part of the solution, the PVA suggests people take these steps:

  • Don't park in a handicapped spot for any reason, no matter the excuse.
  • Don't share or borrow handicap placards.
  • Post using #HonorTheSpot to encourage others.

To learn more and pledge to be part of the solution, visit


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