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Augusta's Toys for Tots program emerges with new coordinator after controversy

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) - - A little more than a week away from the national launch of the U.S. Marines Toys for Tots program brings changes to the local Toys for Tots program.  A consultant with the foundation told NewsChannel 6 that last year's coordinator, Grace Anderson, was asked to step aside and not be connected to Toys for Tots.  

Last December, NewsChannel 6 reported on a criminal investigation involving Anderson for identity fraud, and a 2009 arrest for forged and counterfeit items in her home.  The Marines immediately began investigating Anderson

Now, there are concerns from local organizations and individuals who are concerned about donating this year.  But recent changes might change their minds.

Toys for Tots in Augusta now has a new face.  The Marine Toys for Tots Foundation removed Grace Anderson after our investigation tipped them off about her personal criminal investigations.  Along with a new coordinator comes safer measures to protect the toys that will eventually be stored in a warehouse on 15th Street.

"Every child will have a good Christmas this year," accoridng to Anne Woods.  She will be the new face of the Marine Toys for Tots program.  

But let's rewind to our news story with former coordinator Grace Anderson just days before Christmas 2017.

"In Columbia County you have an open investigation," said DuBose.

Grace Anderson replied, "I can not comment on that because I have a lawyer so I can not talk about that."

Anderson reported an October 2017 burglary to the sheriff's office at the former warehouse on Gordon Highway and then told media she didn't know how she would pull off getting toys for thousands of children by December 25.  Donations came pouring in from several companies and organizations.  That's when we learned she was facing her own personal criminal troubles for the past decade in Columbia County. 

Woods addressed the past she is now stepping into.

"I knew nothing about any of this," she explained.  "My main focus is that every child get serviced for Christmas."

While Woods doesn't know, the The U.S. Marine Corps does.

Brian Murray, a consultant and Ret. USMC Major said, "The investigation is ongoing, but to ensure the U.S. Marine Corps and Toys for Tots retain their stellar reputations, the Foundation asked that she step aside and not be connected with the local program."

The local website also has Woods as the new coordinator.  But the local Marines and Facebook pages still list Anderson having her old job, including a golf fundraiser she held in June. 

No automatic alt text available.Woods clarified how her role came to be and said she was unsure why a Facebook post stated that Anderson is acting as Assistant Coordinator. 

"I was asked because they were talking about moving the program out of Augusta if a volunteer didn't step up so I did," she said. 

Woods said she expects to serve about 60,000 kids this year, which is up from around 50,000 she believes because some of the school principals have stated there are more homeless families.  Kids ages 8 and older need the most help, she added.  She said schools and organizations attended a kick off meeting Thursday and she's ready to roll out boxes and applications on October 1.  Both are available at the warehouse, located at 1545 15th Street. 

 

 

Stolkin Temple #22 Member Larry Elrod attended the meeting with fellow members and afterwards they began assisting. 

"We learned how we can help out in the warehouse and actually go out and organize those toys and actually make deliveries," he said adding that Stolkin Temple #22's goal is to mentor kids through this partnership. 

Woods added that a security system has been added to the warehouse to try to avoid any toy thefts this year.  She also said deputies will patrol the area. 

Photojournalist: Gary Hipps

 


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