Brothers make a smile happen

2 December

Zeta Mu (Sam Houston State) – Making the season merry for a less fortunate child this season just got a whole lot easier thanks to some local businesses and organizations.

The fourth annual Make a Smile Happen or “MASH” food and toy drive is being held until 5 tonight in the parking lot of Shenanigan’s. The event is sponsored by KSAM and KHVL radio stations and Margarita’s Mexican restaurant. Volunteers from Alpha Tau Omega fraternity at Sam Houston State University and local members of the National Guard are taking non-perishable food items and new, unwrapped toys to be donated to the SAAFE House and the Good Shepherd Mission.

Matt Reyna with Alpha Tau Omega, who was volunteering at the event Wednesday afternoon, said the toy drive is a good way to give back to the community.

“It’s a good chance to get out and help the community, and you might as well take advantage of it,” he said. “It’s getting me excited for Christmas, and it’s getting me into the Christmas spirit. It’s really enjoyable. I’ve seen people bringing in food and toys.”

The Good Shepherd Mission, which is hosting a Santa’s Helper toy drive, also will get food and toys from the MASH drive.

Mission director Dave Smith said he appreciates the volunteers who have helped with the event.

“This is how it best operates. We don’t have the manpower for this,” he said. “Our specialty is in ministering to those in need. Other people’s specialties are in marketing and communication. It’s really good when the media steps up to the plate and takes care of us.”

Steve Everett, general manager of KSAM, said the radio station started the event to benefit those less fortunate during the Christmas season.

“We wanted to do something to help organizations like the Good Shepherd Mission,” he said. “I know they’re always in need of food. Dave said they fed 1,800 hot meals in the month of October and it takes a lot of food to do that. This way we can collect a lot of food for them at one time that will help folks less fortunate than we are to have a happy holiday.”

Every year, Everett said he hears stories during the drive that warm his heart. One such story is that of a grandmother who donates a toy each year for her granddaughter who passed away. Each year, he said, she gives a toy that would have been appropriate for the age her granddaughter would be that year. “She said that’s how they spend their Christmas for her – in her memory.”

Local businesses have joined the effort, Everett said. Jim and Karon Murff brought several bicycles to the drive, and Weatherford took up a $5 donation from employees to purchase bicycles to donate.

Toys will be split among the SAAFE House , YMCA and Wesley United Methodist Church’s Santa’s Helpers, which benefits the Good Shepherd Mission.

Everett said the drive is collecting money as well.

“SAAFE House has certain families where they’ll come in and take what they need. They set up a little store inside where they invite their families to come in,” he said. “We’ve had some heartwarming stories from there. You can tell the pride and joy that swells up inside those parents, and they’re very thankful.”

Everett said the drive gets bigger each year, and this year donations have been rolling in.

“This tent will be full of food, toys, and by noon tomorrow it’ll be packed,” he said. “We need any type of toy, games, bicycles — anything for youngsters. We’re trying to help the families here in Walker County and Huntsville that are not as privileged as many of us are.”

Donating to families who don’t have the means to provide their children with gifts for Christmas is the key goal for the drive. He urged anyone who had an item to donate to drop by the MASH tent.

“We feel like this is a way those of us who have benefited and been blessed so much over the years can help out and give back,” he said. “It’s easy for people to drive in, drop off a toy and drive out. We’ve got our National Guard members here who will unload your car for you and you’ll get a MASH T-shirt while supplies last. You’re in and out in just a couple of seconds.”

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