Guard soldiers help holiday toy drive

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, December 5, 2006

More than 200 children in the Brookhaven area will experiencethe joys of Christmas this year because of the efforts of localMississippi Army National Guard soldiers.

Soldiers of Company E, Forward Support Company, 106th BrigadeSupport Battalion, gathered to celebrate the holiday Saturday withtheir families and brought toys to donate to Brookhaven OutreachMinistries, a local charitable organization that strives to meetthe needs of those who have nowhere else to turn.

“We are registering those that are not on any other list,” saidthe Rev. Jerry Durr, president and founder of the ministry. “Theseare the ones who fell through the cracks. This will help ustremendously.”

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The toy drive was voluntary, said Company Commander Capt. JohnBoler, but he did not believe any soldier arrived without a toy todonate.

“We’re a military organization, but we also support thiscommunity,” he said. “If anything comes up in the community andthey need our support, we try to do that.”

Boler said the toy drive was a first for the unit since itsreorganization in August. Many of the soldiers with the formerinfantry unit are still present, he said, but transfers have alsoseen a lot of soldiers find new homes and brought new soldiers tothe unit.

“So, this is actually the first year this company has done this.It’s actually our first Christmas party,” he said.

Durr said the unit contacted him to see how it could help assistothers during the Christmas holidays. They determined the toy drivewas the most advantageous.

The unit had become familiar with Brookhaven Outreach Ministriesduring its 2005 deployment to Iraq in support of Operation EnduringFreedom, said SSgt. Lucius Washington, training NCO.

The Family Support Readiness Group had developed significantties to the organization during that time, he said, and the charityprovided some assistance to families of soldiers who needed itwhile the soldiers were overseas.

Boler said he hopes to make the toy drive an annual traditionfor the company.

Durr was excited about the prospect.

“I thank God for this,” he said. “The morale of the NationalGuard units and the troops is extraordinary. They really are hereto protect and serve our community.”