An army of volunteers play Santa for Toys for Tots in Helena

Posted at 11:28 AM, Dec 14, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-16 17:41:50-05

HELENA — This year more than 12,000 toys were raised for the Helena Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots program.

An army of volunteers were on hand Saturday to help distribute those toys to families.

“We just want to be down here and show our support for the community, and honestly it comes down to the families and making sure everyone has a really great Christmas,” said Joel Windle, NAVY hospital corpsman second class.

Action figures, stuffed animals, books and other gifts flooded the floor of the Helena Salvation Army gymnasium.

The Salvation Army provided lunch for the volunteers and held a clothing distribution upstairs for the families coming through.

Volunteers MTN spoke with said they’re the lucky ones because the get to spend their Saturday helping others.

“It’s rather awe-inspiring,” said Marine Corps veteran Jim Heffernan. “Sometime you’ll see a parent who starts to tear, the humility in being a part of all is is just amazing.”

Heffernan helped start Helena Toys for Tots over 40 years ago.

While in his Dress Blues, the old sergeant encouraged the younger volunteers on Saturday by giving them a hard time, and handing challenge coins to those who went above and beyond helping their fellow neighbors.

Heffernan said if he knows one thing, it’s that the community will always come together to help those in need.

“I think with the people in Helena and the surrounding areas, this will continue on, I hope, for another 40 or 50 years. Until there is no child out there that doesn’t need a toy,” said Heffernan.

More than 380 families are benefiting from this year’s Toys for Tots event.