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Making Christmas bright

POSTED: December 12, 2013 10:26 p.m.
Photo by Paul Floeckher/

Effingham Health System employees load boxes with donations to Toys for Tots. Effingham Health collected 237 toys for local for children in need in its first year participating in Toys for Tots, and plans to set its sights higher for next year’s campaign.

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More than 200 toys surrounded the Christmas tree in the Effingham Hospital atrium Thursday.

The toys soon will be in the hands of local children who otherwise might not have presents under their Christmas trees.

Participating for the first time in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve’s annual Toys for Tots campaign, Effingham Health System collected 237 toys for local children in need.

“For the first time out, I was pleasantly surprised,” said Michael Murphy, Effingham Health System’s environment of care manager. “Next year when we do it, I’m going to ramp it up and make my goal a lot higher.”

Staff Sgt. Elias Garcia, the local Toys for Tots coordinator, thanked the EHS staff for its contribution when he picked up the toys on Thursday. Effingham Health became involved in Toys for Tots after Murphy heard Garcia speak at a Rotary Club of Effingham County meeting in November.

“He told us about it and, at that time, they only had one collection site in Effingham County,” Murphy said. “I was really touched by his message.”

EHS set up seven collection sites — at the hospital, Effingham Care Center and the five Effingham Family Medicine locations. Garcia said Effingham Health’s participation helped make Toys for Tots more visible in the county.

“It’s out there now and we have probably a good 20 locations here in Effingham,” Garcia said. “We can definitely take care of the children here in Effingham.”

Effingham Health CEO Norma Jean Morgan joined Murphy and Garcia in thanking the EHS employees, several of whom gathered around the tree for Thursday’s presentation. Murphy gave special recognition to the Effingham Care Center staff which, rather than exchanging gifts amongst themselves this year, chose to give to Toys for Tots.

Of all the 237 gifts around the tree, Morgan was drawn to a teddy bear. She held the toy bear as she shared a story her father used to tell every Christmas.

“He would remind us of how blessed we were as children to have several toys at Christmas,” Morgan said. “Because, as a child, he said that he got an orange and one toy — and that’s all he got. He said he never remembered getting any more than that.”

One year, she said, he wanted a pocket watch he had seen in a local store. He said how much he liked it, and dropped hints about how much he would like to have it.

That Christmas morning, he just knew he would unwrap his pocket watch. Instead, his Christmas present was a teddy bear.

“The lesson that he learned,” Morgan said, “was that it wasn’t the gift that you got, but the condition of your heart. What we have done here is about the condition of our heart.”

Morgan also quoted a Bible verse, from Corinthians 1, chapter 13. The well-known verse ends “now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

“That’s why we do what we’re doing here at Christmas,” Morgan said, “is to reach out to children that do not have the benefit of lots of toys — or even lots of love.”


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