The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

November 27, 2011

Andra Bryan Stefanoni: Toys for Tots campaign aiming for new heights

PITTSBURG, Kan. — It’s hard to say no to a Marine who phones with a humanitarian request — and respectfully calls you ma’am, to boot.

So this one’s for Master Gunnery Sgt. Lynden Lawson.

Considering that he started from nothing last year, Lawson made a significant difference in the lives of Pittsburg area children at Christmas.

After a year in Baghdad, Lawson retired in 2010 after 30 years in the Marines and moved to Pittsburg to join his wife, Kirstin Lawson, a teacher at Pittsburg State University.

He had assisted elsewhere with the Toys for Tots campaign — a national program the Marines started in 1947 — and after seeing the difference it made, he decided to implement it in our corner of the world.

His goal? To collect 200 toys for boys and girls in a community in which he’d lived for just a few months.

With the approval of Southeast Kansas Toys for Tots and the partnership of the Pittsburg Salvation Army and numerous area businesses, Lawson exceeded his goal in a jaw-dropping way.

“We collected more than 1,000 toys,” Lawson said.

But this year, he told me, he’s aiming even higher.

“They already have 1,500 kids signed up for toys through the Salvation Army for the distribution on Dec. 15-16,” he said last week. “I’m setting my goal at 1,200 toys.”

He’ll combine what he collects with toy campaigns by Angel Tree and KOAM-TV.

Those who want to contribute may do so at Pittsburg’s Molle Automotive; Wal-Mart; Walgreens; Big Lots; three Dollar General locations on Broadway, Rouse Street and in Arma; Jock’s Nitch; Meadowbrook Mall; Sweet Designs Cakery; Crimson Villas; My Town Media; and the Salvation Army.

Monetary donations may be made at Pumpin’ Pete’s or at Sweet Designs, where donors may add their names to paper trains.

At Walgreens, shoppers may contribute to a fill-the-truck toy drive on Saturday, Dec. 3.

And today, Lawson said to expect at least one Marine in dress blues walking the Christmas parade route beginning at 6:30 p.m. Parade-goers may give donations of new, unwrapped toys for boys and girls of all ages.

Be prepared; it’s hard to say no to a Marine.

Details: Salvation Army at 620-231-0415 or Lawson at 949-331-5838.

Have an idea for a column? Email astefanoni@joplinglobe.com, or visit Facebook at Andra Bryan Stefanoni, Staff Writer - The Joplin Globe. Visit the Globe’s newest Facebook page at Joplin Globe: Pittsburg, Kan.

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