Operation Military Cheer toy drive sets new record

DWA

Kristen Arnett helps Santa sort through just a small portion of the toys collected by the Lexington-Bluegrass Association of Realtors.

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Dec. 16, 2010) — The 2010 Kentucky National Guard Christmas toy drive reached new heights with a massive effort between Guard members, Families and friends across the Commonwealth.

The toy drive is part of Operation Military Cheer, an effort by the Kentucky National Guard’s Family Assistance Center to ensure that the children of Kentucky’s military Families have a memorable Christmas.

“We support all military Families, not just the Guard,” said Cindy Culver,state youth coordinator for the Kentucky National Guard.  “And there is plenty of need to go around.”

Between multiple deployments and the spiraling economy, Kentucky’s Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen have been hit particularly hard this year with an unemployment rate of more than 20 percent.

“In the Kentucky Guard alone we have more than 420 children who are asking for help and the requests keep coming in,” said Culver.   “That’s up more than a hundred from last year.”

Santa gets a helping hand from Shelia Brookins, wife of Sgt. Darrell Brookins. More than 600 toys were collected by LBAR, destined for military families in need across Kentucky.

The good news is that charity is still alive.  One of the most significant contributors for this year’s drive was the
Lexington-Bluegrass Association of Realtors.  This is the fourth consecutive year that LBAR has partnered with the Kentucky Guard for a toy drive.  A trailer filled with everything from dolls to bicycles was collected by the association’s membership.  Gift cards totaling $1,125 were also collected during the effort.

“We do this to give back to the Guard,” said Rock Daniels, who organized the LBAR toy drive.  “They do so much for us, we really pushed hard to make this happen.”

Capt. Bryan Combs presents Rock Daniels with a token of appreciation for his efforts in organizing the Lexington-Bluegrass Association of Realtors toy drive.

Daniels credited Jesse Hardin of Flagstar Bank, real estate attorney Dan Miller and property inspector John Bain for making significant contributions toward the cause.

“Together these gentlemen contributed more than $900 for the drive,” said Daniels.  “They were huge in making this happen.”

The Lexington chapter of the Disabled American Veterans was another driving force in the LBAR drive, contributing six of the bicycles.

“This is our third year in helping out the service members and their Families,” said Les Mulcahy, commander of the Lexington DAV chapter.  “We’ve all been in their shoes and know what they’re going through.  It is an honor to serve.”

Danny Jones gathers up two of the bicycles donated by the Lexington chapter of the Disabled American Veterans.

Santa and his elves: Soldiers, spouses and volunteers, all pulling together to make the holidays a time of hope and joy.

To find out how you can become part of Operation Military Cheer contact: Cindy Culver @ cindy.culver@us.army.mil or Linda Jones @ linda.jones@us.army.mil.  You can also reach them through the Family Assistance Center hotline at 1-800-372-7601.

To see more photos from Operation Military Cheer visit http://www.flickr.com/photos/kyngpao.

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