By: Staff Reports | Gwinnett Citizen

Operation Toy Soldier...wrapping up Christmas Cheer with toy drive on Saturday the 19th
Beth Volpert Johansen

All four locations of the Tim Stewart Funeral homes are celebrating the 5th year of Operation Toy Soldier. The holidays are a season for joy and celebration, but for many servicemen and women, it can be a time of stress.

IMG 0162 190The pressures of providing a meal each day does not leave a great deal of room for toys from Santa. That’s where Operation Toy Soldier comes in. They love to facilitate the magic of the season. 

“We drop off our collection barrels the week before Thanksgiving and pick them up on December 21st,” says Tony Price of Tim Stewart Funeral Homes. “We collect new, unwrapped toys and any cash donations people would like to give.” The cash donations come in handy for older kids who might want and need something as practical as a pair of running shoes. “These kids are not expecting an iPod, they want for basic needs,” says Tony. “Being able to supply a toy or a gift card for shoes to a struggling parent is a real blessing.” IMG 0159190

Right: Operation Toy Soldier volunteers and a barrel full of donations.  

Operation Toy Soldier began after Tim Stewart Funeral Homes’ support of J-9 Family Assistance with backpacks through the Alpha Company, 1-121st Infantry Battalion located in Lawrenceville, GA. This led to the establishment of Operation Toy soldier. This year, OTS added The American Legion in Monroe. Among these brave GA National Guard soldiers are men and women who will not admit need for themselves, but set aside pride for their children. “We get an application with a list of things that the kids are into-Legos, Transformers...and we try to match up the collected toys with the kids,” says Tony. Volunteers sort and bag the toys along with the application in order to make as many dreams come true on Christmas morning as is possible.
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“We get a lot of support from local businesses and government entities because all of our collections stay local,” says Tony. “Everything we collect stays in Gwinnett and Walton Counties.” 

Left: Excited for Christmas presents under the tree.

Tony knows that the families of the children don’t want the attention given them and works hard to help preserve the dignity of each parent who feels the need to ask for help. “It’s not like anyone wants to ask anyone for help, but we feel it is our duty to supply toys to this cause,” says Tony. “It shows us-all the volunteers and employees that we really don’t have any real problems-we are blessed.” The problems faced by many soldiers are pervasive throughout the year, but allowing a group like Operation Toy Soldier to step in and solve a few minor challenges seems to bring blessings to all those involved. 

“As funeral directors, this is a particularly somber time of year,” says Tony. “If we can bring joy to children, then we feel something positive is happening just inside our doors.” IMG 0147190

Operation Toy Soldier will be finishing up their collections with a huge drive at the Army/Navy Store in Snellville on Saturday, December 19th from 11am to 2pm. The American Legion Riders from Loganville will be assisting with cash collections. Drop by and give back to our local area soldiers and their children... be a part of the magic. 

Right: Collection van for Operation Toy Soldier.