Anniston Army Depot donates bikes, toys to needy kids
by Patrick McCreless
pmccreless@annistonstar.com
Dec 18, 2013 | 3514 views |  0 comments | 101 101 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Anniston Army Depot employee Mike Knight, dressed as Santa Claus, rolls in a bicycle for children in need at the Department of Human Services in Anniston. (Photo by Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star)
Anniston Army Depot employee Mike Knight, dressed as Santa Claus, rolls in a bicycle for children in need at the Department of Human Services in Anniston. (Photo by Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star)
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Shenell Billips just cannot bear the thought of a child missing Christmas.

"I have children of my own and I can imagine not being able to provide for them because that has happened to me," Billips said. "I wouldn't want any else's children to have to go through that either."

For the last several years Billips, a budget analyst for the Anniston Army Depot, has participated in the facility's annual Christmas toy giveaway program for area needy children, and this year was no different. Billips was one of many depot employees who delivered truckloads of toys to the Calhoun County Department of Human Resources on Wednesday for 146 children.

"I assist every year ... because I know there are children out there in need and know I can assist," Billips said.

With more than 2,900 employees, the depot provides repair and maintenance work on combat vehicles and small arms for the military.

The DHR building in Anniston was stuffed with Christmas presents Wednesday morning — a service the depot has performed for the last 28 years. Various multi-colored bicycles were parked in a row in front of stacks of brown cardboard boxes, each filled with wrapped games, dolls and other toys.

Depot employee Jeanette Baxter, who has organized the Christmas event the last six years, said each shop at the depot was asked to purchase between $150 and $175 worth of toys per child. The DHR provided the toy wish lists of each child, Baxter said.

Baxter said she did a good portion of the shopping herself.

"I love this, being able to know you're providing something for children in need," Baxter said. "Seeing all these presents here make me happy."

Sandy Fortner, program supervisor for foster care, family preservation and resources at DHR, said the children receiving the presents range from newborns to 18 years old. Fortner said her department has more than 100 children from poor families in need of help each Christmas.

"For these groups of kids, were it not for the depot, we would not be able to provide Christmas for them," Fortner said.

Col. Brent Bolander, depot commander, said the few depot employees at the DHR Wednesday were just a small representation of all the workers who teamed up to make the toy giveaway a success.

"The depot is a community that represents so many different towns and counties, but when it comes to supporting an event like this, it doesn't matter where you're from," Bolander said. "It's about supporting people in need."

Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.
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