The culmination of many hours of hard work and dedication came together on Saturday, Dec. 6 at Fellowship Hall when the toys gathered in this year’s Operation Homefront Toy Drive were distributed.
Most of the work that went into this project was volunteered by Aviation Electrician First Class Jerry Shelton. For the distribution of the toys, Shelton was assisted by fellow Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training Unit instructors as well as students.
Shelton distributed the donation boxes, then made the rounds to collect those donations every week.
As an instructor at CNATTU, Shelton has a formidable workload, but that didn’t stop him from getting into his truck every Friday for the past five weeks to make the rounds and pick up toys.
He might have looked like a modern day Santa Claus (if Santa had a Dodge) as he drove his truck the 140 mile round trip loop, picking up toys on the way to bring back to base.
His efforts yielded unprecedented results as he brought over 15,000 toys to base to give to families here at NAS Lemoore. All of the donations that were collected were distributed locally.
On Saturday afternoon, some 350 families stopped by Fellowship Hall to pick out gifts for under the tree. So many toys were collected that each family was able to pick out 25-40 items for every child they wanted to provide for.
This is the second year that Shelton took the lead for this event and he will be handing off the reins next year.
Asked why he chooses to volunteer, Shelton said, "I have the time and I want to give something back.”
Helping to coordinate the event was Chaplin Carl Rhoads, who humbly downplayed his role in the affair. He only wanted to thank the Command for being supportive.
“We love Operation Homefront, everything they do is first class," Rhoads said.
To get an inkling of the impact this project had on families, one only needed to flip through a book placed by the check-in table. It was an anonymous place to write comments or thoughts about the event by the people that came to it.
Comments in the book included “I love that you guys do this, it is awesome for the kids. Thank You!” and “This is an amazing event and so generous such a help for Christmas! Thank You!”
So if you see a Dodge truck motoring down the highway with a load of toys in the back, just tell the kids it is one of Santa’s helpers doing his part.