Spreading Christmas cheer

BRISTOL, Conn. — December always brings an early Christmas gift to the members of the Connecticut B.A.S.S. Federation Nation (CBFN), and to scores of children.

 "Last year, we were concerned that the economy would affect our donations," said Sylvia Morris, CBFN vice president. "It did, but not in the way we thought. It was our best year ever. People realize the importance of giving in this tough environment."

 Morris is referring to CBFN's participation in the Marine Corps Toys for Tots drive. Started by the Mohawk Valley BassCasters several years ago, the program has grown into one of Connecticut's most successful benevolent programs.

 "Every year in early December, we pull a couple of bass boats into the parking lot of our local Walmart in Bristol. Early that morning, our clubs drop off their contributions. We put them in the boats. This creates an immediate impression of success and tells the shoppers what we're all about.

 "Most people give something. Some will fill a cart inside the store and drop it off on their way out. Others buy bicycles and donate them. And Walmart gives us 20 percent off when we spend cash donations. It's huge. We finish with hundreds of toys."

 Once the drive is over, Marines from the local base pick up the toys and distribute them to children in need through the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation.

 According to Morris, the success of their toy drive can be attributed to a culture of service within Connecticut B.A.S.S. "We don't look at things like this as an obligation. We view it as a privilege."

 Paul Carter, President of the CBFN, agrees. "It's something we do that comes from the heart. We get as much out of it as the kids do, maybe more."

 Morris and Carter both emphasize that any CBFN officer is available to help start a similar program anywhere in the country. For guidance in started a program for your state, visit http://www.ctbass.com/index.asp?Mode=OFFICERS.

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