CEDAR CITY – Around 1,400 children in Iron and Beaver counties get to wake up this Christmas morning to presents under the tree thanks to the efforts of the local Toys for Tots program that was able to fill quite a few wish lists this year because of the donations and support from local residents and businesses.
Enoch Police Sgt. Mike Berg and his family were some of those volunteers.
Just two days before Christmas, Berg, with his wife and children in tow, spent Wednesday enduring the cold weather outside the Enoch Maverik on Minersville Highway to try and fill his “cop car,” a Dodge Durango, with toys.
“Community-oriented policing isn’t just a philosophy, it’s about going out and doing things for our community – that’s what it’s about,” Berg said. “That’s what this was about, going out and doing something for our community. These guys help people throughout Beaver and Iron (counties) and they’ve helped people I know and care about. I wanted to help, and I wanted to give back and that’s what community-oriented policing is about. It’s all about the community.”
Berg is known for getting creative at Christmas time when it comes to charity. Last year he was responsible for orchestrating traffic stops in Enoch as a way to give away some money that had been donated by a resident who was interested in helping others but didn’t know how.
“Last year someone literally walked in to the city offices and handed us money,” Berg said. “He literally walked in with six $100 bills so we came up with how to distribute that money by pulling people over for legal stops.”
This year’s altruistic undertaking was organized at the last minute, he said, but it didn’t matter, it was still a success.
“These guys help everybody in our area. So we put it on social media on Sunday and there was people waiting for us at Maverik at 10 a.m. that morning with gifts to put in the car,” he said. “It was really an off-the-cuff thing.”
With the help of social media and children who stood outside of the convenience store with cardboard signs, directing shoppers over to the car, Berg and his family were able to nearly fill his vehicle with gifts and raise around $120 in cash donations.
The activity was not only an opportunity to help others he said, but also a chance for him and his family to give back to the community they live in.
Enoch City Manager Rob Dotson said he completely supported the idea when Berg proposed it to him.
For Ryan Merrill and Jeff Lennert, coordinators of the Beaver and Iron counties Toys for Tots program, the event was a great help especially for those last-minute gifts they needed to fill gaps in their clients’ wish lists.
“Every year there’s a gap somewhere. This year it was older boys. I think I spent about $2,500 to fill that gap,” Merrill said. “I’m talking about boys 12 to 17 because like, say we have a family of four kids who are 8, 10, 14 and 17 (years old), we can’t just leave the one or two out.”
With Iron County the third poorest county in the state, the Toys for Tots program fills a huge need in an area where many children live below the poverty line. The program works in conjunction with several others in the area to bring both Christmas and holiday meals into the home, Merrill said.
About Toys for Tots
Toys for Tots was founded in 1947 by Major Bill Hendricks with the United States Marine Corps Reserve. An estimated 5,000 toys were collected for children in Los Angeles, California that first year.
In 1948, the USMCR officially adopted the program and expanded it into a nationwide community action project. Marines at each reserve center throughout the country conduct toy collection and distribution campaigns in the communities surrounding the centers.
- For more information on the local program go to: Cedar City Toys for Tots Web page
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