Editor’s note: This story has been re-edited and corrected. A previous version of this story stated Sgt. Hannah Bacon was an Abington area resident. She resides in Pittston.
The Toys for Tots program in Northeast PA covers many counties, including Lackawanna, Luzerne, and Susquehanna. But the program could not be successful without the help of local organizations, including some in the Abington area.
The Juanita Chapter of the Order of Eastern Star, a local charitable women’s organization based in Waverly, donated many toys for the program. Two of its members, Worthy Matron Nancy McLain and member Nora Freda, visited the warehouse to drop off toys donated by the group.
Kids Quality Consignments, a toy store located in Clarks Summit, also donated toys, and the shop’s customers were also encouraged to donate. Owner Becky Bruner mentioned that her customers purchase toys from her store and gives them away to the Toys for Tots program.
“It’s an excellent program for those less fortunate,” said Bruner.
Pittston resident Sgt. Hannah Bacon has chosen to pursue a career serving her country as a Marine. During this time of year, the fight she is focused on is making sure all children have toys on Christmas.
Bacon is a manager of the Toys for Tots warehouse at the CenterPoint Commerce and Trade Park in Pittston. This is her first year being part of the Toys for Tots program. She accounts for all the toys donated to the warehouse by taking inventory of the shipments. She also takes orders from non-profit organizations.
“I have great helpers that help me count and sort them (the toys),” she said about the volunteers. “They (the toys) are all separated by gender, age, and what types of toys like games, puzzles, art and crafts, and stuff like that.”
Bacon credits not only the organizations who give donations but also those who help the cause in other ways. She said Bekins, a trucking company, picks up the toys from the warehouse and delivers them, and Diamond Recycling Company helps out by collecting cardboard boxes and plastics, in which the toys and games are wrapped.
“Any way that they can help, they do help us,” said Bacon.
The Toys for Tots program starts collecting donations in October and finishes in either late December or early January. Off season, Bacon trains reservists for deployment. She is also a supply Marine, which means she maintains inventory for military equipment and gear.
Bacon, originally from Laurinburg, North Carolina, started her career as a boot camp private at Parris Island, South Carolina in January 2011. In April of that year, she joined the U.S. Marines. She has been deployed in various countries with expeditionary units, such as Spain and Israel. She is currently an E-5 sergeant.
Bacon is also a mother with a 10-month-old daughter, Charlotte Bacon. Her husband, Andrew Bacon, is a retired Marine. He is currently a fitness trainer in Trumbull, Connecticut.
Bacon enjoys everything about both being a Marine and being a part of the Toys for Tots program.
“I love serving the country,” she said. “I have a great purpose in my job. I’ve met some of the greatest people being in the Marine Corps. I get to participate in a great program like Toys for Tots helping the community, and you’re never going to feel the brotherhood elsewhere like you would in the Marine Corps. Not only am I mentored and affected by other Marines, I also lead and guide my fellow Marines as well. It’s the greatest job.”
The Toys for Tots program is primarily a reserve function all around the United States. It is part of the I & I (inspector & instructor) program.
Staff Sgt. Louis Cortes of the U.S. Marine Corps oversees the whole operation of Toys for Tots. He believes that serving the county is not just fighting battles at sea but also giving underprivileged children and families a sense of hope, especially for the holidays. In fact, he calls the Toys for Tots program “Boxes of Hope.”
“We’re for the people,” he said. “It’s not just fighting battles abroad, but fighting battles at home including poverty. We’re a people’s Marine Corps. Ninety-seven percent of what we do goes to the cause.”