On the evening of December 22, less than three days before Christmas, an urgent email came through from Region 1’s Deputy Field Operations Manager, John Conway.
“Does anyone have any contacts for shelters or veterans that need toys for Christmas?”
Conway, a Marine veteran, runs the Toys for Tots program for the Billerica Fire Department in Billerica, Mass. He went on to explain that Toys for Tots pickups were done for the year, and as a result of the community’s generosity this holiday season, the fire department was left with a plethora of extra toys that needed a home.
“I would hate to see them sit in the fire station until next year when there are families that could use the toys right now,” he said.
Within minutes of sending the email, TR members connected John with Scott Selmecki, District Team Depot Captain and store manager for the Shrewsbury, Mass. Home Depot. Selmecki, an Army veteran, also works with Veterans Inc., a local organization that provides housing and other services to homeless veterans and their families.
Earlier this year, Team Rubicon and Team Depot partnered for a service project refurbishing a Veterans Inc. facility for female veterans and their children in Worcester, Mass. as part of The Home Depot’s annual Celebration of Service.
Selmecki immediately mobilized his network of Team Depot and Veterans Inc. contacts to find organizations still in need of toys for Christmas. Conway was stunned when six cargo vans showed up at the Billerica Fire Department less than 24 hours later to take the toys to distribute across Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Among those helping Conway load the toys were three U.S. military veterans and members of the Billerica Fire Department: Lt. Joseph Brangwynne, Army veteran and TR member; FF Jon Reinecker, Army veteran; and FF Shawn O’Connor, Marine veteran.
The Bellingham, Mass. Home Depot picked up toys to donate to the Bellingham Police Department Youth Services:
Saugus and Danvers Home Depot stores in Massachusetts brought toys to Cradles to Crayons, which provides children living in homeless or low-income situations with the essential items they need to thrive – at home, at school, and at play.
The Providence, RI Home Depot store picked up toys to distribute at multiple locations across the greater Providence area. A truck from the Shrewsbury, Mass. Home Depot store arrived on Christmas Eve to deliver toys to the same Veterans Inc. facility where TR and Team Depot volunteers worked side by side earlier this year.
Finally, any remaining toys will go to Birthday Wishes, an organization that distributes toys throughout the year to kids in need on their birthdays.
“It was truly amazing to see the power of veterans groups coming together to serve those in need this holiday season,” said Conway.