Sen. Carper collects Toys for Tots

MILFORD — U.S. Senator Tom Carper has worked for more than thirty years to bring back the “true meaning of Christmas” through his very own toy story.

A story that includes local rapper and bus driver Sgt. Lafayette Bell of Felton.

“I first got involved with Toys for Tots in 1992 as a U.S. Marine Reservist in Wilmington collecting toys and attending functions. It was a then Gov. Tom Carper Party at this very location where I got my start,” Sgt. Bell said.

Sen. Carper and his wife made their annual holiday trip to Milford Sunday afternoon to celebrate the season and collect toys for the Toys for Tots program run by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, just as they did when Sgt. Bell first attended the event.

“We’ve been hosting the reception for over 30 years. It’s a source of great joy and we find it’s a great source of joy for the people that come and bring toys,” he said.

He added that the number of years spent collecting toys for the charity is not hard to remember for the Carpers.

“It was one minute after midnight 31 years ago that we were married,” Sen. Carper said of his marriage to wife Martha.

During his speech to the crowd gathered at Rookery North by invitation only, he advised that a successful relationship takes communication and compromise.

“That’s not only the secret to marriage, but it’s also the secret to a vibrant democracy,” he explained, tying his visit in with current events. “We are a nation divided. We have been a nation divided before… If we can get through the first 200 years, we can get through this.”

Events celebrating holidays and charities are great ways, he hopes, to help reunite the community and nation.

Toys collected during the event and another reception which was held Friday, Dec. 9 at the University of Delaware’s Arsht Hall in Wilmington will be sent to a warehouse in Dover to prepare for Christmas.

Ralph Willis, a volunteer with Toys for Tots, said the toys will be separated by age and gender to make the gift-giving process easier. Families who have already been approved by the program will be able to visit the warehouse to pick up pre-labeled packaged filled with unwrapped gifts to give their children.

U.S. Senator Carper shakes hands with local rapper and bus driver Sgt. Lafayette Bell, Sr. Special to The Journal/Diamond State Records

“We want the parents to feel active in the process,” volunteer Bill Yonker said.

Nearly 580 bags of gifts have already been put together, with another 500 or more to go, according to Mr. Willis.

Smaller gifts will be put into “stocking-stuffer” bags, including items like crayons and coloring books.

Sgt. Bell said he helps hand bags of toys out every year and hosts toy drives when he can to help strengthen the local program.

“I stay involved because I grew up as a young child needing public assistance and toys for Christmas,” he said, adding that the local Gulf War-Era U.S. Marine’s involvement doesn’t end there.

“I’ve written four jingles for Toys for Tots since 1997 and a full-length song. I’ve done a 59.5 Video entitled Sgt. Bell Christmas in July also which is a YouTube video and T.V. Commercial in select areas like New Castle County, De. My goal is to get people of color, young people of the  Hip-Hop culture involved with the Organization and toy drive. I receive Air-Play at colleges and universities across our great nation,” he said.

“I think U.S. Senator Tom Carper coming to our area is great since it is a big toy collecting event every year. It also shows people that he cares about people in Delaware.”

Sen. Carper added, “We find that sometimes we forget the true meaning of Christmas. This brightens our day and theirs. In the joy of others, we find our own. Toys for Tots is living proof of that. We provide a lot of joy for kids and a little for us, too.”

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