Volunteers work with Sailors from Joint Base McGuire Dix Lakehurst to fill trucks with toys for the annual Toys for Tots drive.

Volunteers from Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division Lakehurst work with Sailors from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst to fill trucks with toys for the annual Toys for Tots drive. The drive collected close to 1,000 toys and 60 bikes for children in Monmouth and Ocean counties. (U.S. Navy photo)

Lakehurst makes holiday season brighter with two sleighs (trucks) of toys for local children

The holiday spirit came early to the Lakehurst side of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst (JBMDL) as boxes for the annual Toys for Tots drive popped up around the installation at the beginning of October. As they have done in years past, team members from Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) Lakehurst and other groups on the Lakehurst side of base worked together to make the holidays brighter for children in Monmouth and Ocean Counties by donating close to 1,000 toys and 60 bikes for kids of all ages. 

It was a frigid morning on Dec. 13 when two 7-ton trucks from the United States Marine Corps in Red Bank made the trip back to Monmouth County filled with toys and bikes, warming the hearts of the Lakehurst team members and Sailors from JBMDL who took time out of their day to load the large vehicles. The 969 toys collected this year beat last year’s total by more than 200 items and even surpassed the 902 collected in 2019. The 61 bikes, 50 helmets and more than a dozen scooters were also more than last year’s totals.   

Along with the collection boxes, Lakehurst’s Navy Exchange has played a critical role in collecting toys for the drive over the years. Lauren Blair, the Exchange’s supervisor, said their role has grown, and the response to Toys for Tots this year is “overwhelming.” 

“It’s wonderful the things that we can do. I think it brings out the child in all of us when they’re unloading the bikes, and it was just so humbling, like being a kid on Christmas morning,” Blair said. “I think it shows that we all support each other to help each other out and work together.” 

Blair also credited NAWCAD Lakehurst organizers Scott McChesney and Amanda Tanzini for coordinating the effort, including the pickup by the Marines noting, “without them, we would have never been as successful as we were in getting all these toys for the kids.”  

McChesney said he was thankful for all the people who came together to make the event a success and has enjoyed watching the program grow every year.  

Larry Sinou, lead welder for launch valve systems at NAWCAD Lakehurst, said the drive has come a long way since he started helping collect toys five years ago. Sinou said there was more of an effort to collect toys and raise money for bikes last year, leading to the record haul. Now using online payment systems, Sinou said they went from collecting $2,700 last year for the bikes to just over $4,500 this year. 

“It’s amazing to see how everybody came together, and when it’s for the kids, people go really deep into their pockets,” he said. “Just watch out for us next year!” 

Blair agreed with Sinou, saying that while the display in the Exchange will come down after the holidays, they’re already looking forward to helping again next year and hopefully doing even more to support the community. 


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