Real People: Powder Springs mom delivers ‘Toys for Tots’ story
By H.M. Cauley
It was late on a Christmas Eve afternoon, and Rebecca Varicak was heading out the office door when the phone rang. While some people would have ignored it, the Powder Springs mom took the road less traveled.
The man on the line told her he was in prison, but he was determined that his children wouldn’t miss getting gifts. Not knowing where to turn, he had called the headquarters of the Marine-sponsored Toys for Tots organization in Virginia, where Varicak answered the phone.
“He said his kids were not going to have a Christmas unless I helped,” Varicak recalled. “So I got the names, ages and address of his kids, then I called the local coordinator for that area. I got in touch with a wonderful marine who took the information and promised me he’d make sure toys were delivered. I went to bed that night thinking what a really good place Toys for Tots was, a place where people bend over backwards to help kids out.”
Varicak worked at the Toys for Tots headquarters until her Marine husband, Mike, was transferred to California in 2000. The couple and their three children moved 10 more times before settling in Powder Springs two years ago when Mike was assigned to a Marine reserve unit at Dobbins Air Force Base. Through the years, the family pitched in with the Toys campaign by sorting and wrapping presents. But this year, the Atlanta organization needed a coordinator, and Varicak volunteered.
“When I worked for them in Virginia, I only knew how things worked from the edge,” she said. “Now I’ve had the chance to see what a well-oiled machine it really is. I also really like that 98 cents of every donated dollar goes to toys.”
Atlanta’s Toys for Tots campaign supports the largest toy-gathering effort in the nation. Last year, more than 700,000 gifts were distributed to children who might have otherwise thought Santa overlooked them.
“It’s a concerted effort between phenomenal volunteers and sponsors,” said Varicak. “The United Way connects us with families who need toys. The Marines go to events like at the Falcons games to collect toys. Civilians run toy campaigns in their workplaces. And there are also drop boxes at Publix’s.”
Last year, when her youngest child told her kindergarten teacher that dad worked for Toys for Tots, Varicak realized that the organization needed to tell its story. She’s spent the last year working on a children’s book, “The Journey of a Toys for Tots Toy,” which she’s self-publishing to support the charity.
“I went online to find a way to explain to her what Toys for Tots was about and couldn’t find anything,” said Varicak. “So I wrote this book from the toys’ perspective to show all the stages of the campaign to the final outcome - the smiles on children’s faces Christmas morning.”
The book that is available online through Amazon and at bookstore.authorhouse.com. To donate or volunteer for Toys for Tots, visit northatlantatoysfortots.org.
Every other Wednesday, H.M. Cauley brings you positive stories from our community. To suggest a story idea, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.