A group of Marines from Grissom Air Reserve Base played Santa Claus Thursday by helping provide toys to more than 350 needy families.
From Barbie dolls to toy cars and trucks, the inside of the Salvation Army’s community center on South Waugh Street look more like Santa’s workshop with Casey Claus, no relation to Santa, at the helm.
“Donations are down a little,” Claus said as the Annual Toys for Tots and Salvation Army distribution got underway Thursday. The distribution of food and toys continues today.
“A lot of people are using their money to help tornado victims. It’s been a rough year for everybody,” he said.
Claus said more than 1,000 toys were donated and another 3,000 were purchased with the more than $20,000 raised through individual and business donations.
Originally from Ohio, Claus is a Navy corpsman serving for the Marine Corps.
Living up to the Claus name, he has always had a soft spot for kids.
“I have two little girls and three stepchildren,” he said. “It’s an extremely a rough time for some families.”
“It’s a Marine Corps-sponsored program,” he continued. “This year I volunteered to organize it. I’ve been doing the Toys for Tots program for 11 years when I served in New Haven, Conn. I knew the ins and outs of the program and wanted to make sure everybody has a Christmas. I’m very disturbed, though, that they didn’t let me grow a beard.”
Claus credited his fellow servicemen and women who dedicated their time to the program.
“We spend the whole month of December away from families collecting toys,” he said.
Claus said the program wouldn’t be able to help as many children as it does without the help of local businesses, especially Chrysler, which raised $8,000 for the Toys for Tots program.