FITCHBURG -- Members of Monty Tech's Marine Corps JROTC program are doing their part to maintain the school's longstanding tradition of helping the area's needy during the holiday season.
The holidays can be stressful for all of us. However, for those who are dealing with unemployment, health issues and other struggles, this time of year can be quite difficult, especially for children.
As part of their ongoing community services efforts, JROTC instructors and cadets are making an all-out effort to help make this year's Marine Corps League's Toys For Tots campaign the best ever.
Twins Austin and Tyler Haase of Fitchburg, along with their parents, Keith and Heidi, have worked on past holiday toy drives in conjunction with the JROTC program. This year, however, they wanted to do something on their own to get the campaign off to a good start. The boys are sophomores at Monty Tech.
The family joined forces with relatives and friends to sponsor a dance, held recently at the American Legion hall in Fitchburg. They didn't have much time to publicize the event, but thanks to social media, distributing flyers and erecting a large banner in the city, more than 100 people attended. The event netted a truckload of toys and $200 in donations to buy more toys.
Austin Haase, who is enrolled in Monty Tech's Culinary Arts program, said it is a great feeling to help make life a bit easier for those who are less fortunate. "I'm really glad our parents had us do this. It was amazing," he said.
Tyler, who is in the electrical program, said, "We never could have done this without our parents' support. I never thought we could collect this many toys in one night."
According to 1st Sgt. Paul Jornet, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.) and instructor-in-charge of the JROTC program, the 170-plus cadets in the program are playing an active role in U.S. Marine Corps League's annual toy drive. In addition to collecting toys within the school, they are also out in the community on weekends seeking donations. "We will be collecting donations of toys and money until Dec. 17. After that, we will be working directly with league members in their distribution efforts," he said.
The cadets will be at the Fitchburg Senior Center from 3 to 5 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 19, to help league members distribute toys, Jornet said. "We hope to service between 700 and 900 families," he said. With the surplus toys, the cadets will join the Fitchburg Police and Fire Departments in a motorcycle caravan to help Santa deliver toys to Fitchburg families.
Donations may be brought to Bellwood Plaza in Fitchburg until Tuesday, Dec. 17. Residents seeking assistance this Christmas may register at the same location.
Jornet said the cadets were also very visible in the community this season, assisting the Salvation Army with its holiday collection efforts.