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Two birthday girls give instead of receive

These two soon to be 8 year olds, Julia Coulombe (left) and Montiana Manfredi (right), gave presents to Toys for Tots for their birthday party on Saturday. Photo by Jody Houle. (click for larger version)
December 18, 2013
BERLIN A birthday party was held at the Berlin Bowling Center for two young girls who will soon be turning 8. Instead of receiving presents for themselves, they decided to give to others.

It is the time of year for giving and Toys for Tots is a program that gives to needy families every year to make their Christmas a little brighter. The two girls, Julia Coulombe, daughter of Tim and Kim Coulombe of Berlin, and Montiana Manfredi, daughter of Frankie and Heidi Manfredi of Berlin, decided this year to collect gifts for their birthday and give to Toys for Tots. 19 kids joined the party and they bowled, socialized, snacked, had cake, and posed for pictures after. The birthday girls turn 8 this week. The birthday party at the bowling center was held on Saturday afternoon. Friends, family members and a few people from the community donated gifts and toys, which were placed in a box that was later picked up by some local volunteers for Toys for Tots.

"We wanted others to have a good Christmas," said Julia. "We are pretty proud of ourselves," she continued. She hopes to be a teacher when she grows up to teach them "to be good" she said.

"I feel delightful," said Montiana who said she wants to work in day care because she likes kids.

They both gave advice to others to give to families in need.

Gilles Laramee, a Marine Corps veteran and local Chairman for Toys for Tots, came to pick up the box during the party along with two other volunteers.

"There are so many people that give. I don't want to forget anyone, so I thank everybody as a whole. The kids will really appreciate it," said Laramee. He said he will be writing a letter to thank all of the people who have donated.

Boxes were placed at many local establishments including the post office, Holiday Center, Aubuchon Hardware, Family Dollar Store, Gills Flower Shop, Gallus and Green Realtors, Hallmark, Ed Fenn School, Royalty, Northway Bank, Sweet Mama's Bakery, and the nursing union at Coos County Nursing Home. Laramee said that the group has recently received a promotion from Walmart. The boxes were to be picked up on Tuesday. Local families who want to receive gifts must apply at Catholic Charities.

The origins of Toys for Tots began in 1947 when Major Bill Hendricks and his Marine Corps unit collected 5000 toys and distributed them to needy children. The following year after much success, the program was adopted as the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program. On average, Marines have distributed over 16,900,000 toys annually within the past 10 years, and have brightened the homes of about 6,500,000 less fortunate children every year.

Laramee, who has been the local chairman through the Marine Corps since 2000, came dressed in full uniform at the birthday party, as well as two other Marine Corps veterans, and they hauled the jam-packed box full of toys away.

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