Kim Strassner, left, and Tina Anderson, of Irvine’s 2/11 Marine Adoption Committee, start wrapping gifts for over 1,000 Marine families at Camp Pendleton. The city’s annual toy drive runs through Dec. 11.

She’s hosting a holiday party for 1,000 Marines


This all started with a small story in the paper, back in 2007.

Tina Anderson read that the city of Irvine had just adopted a Marine battalion and asked her husband, who had served in the Marines: “You want to see what this is all about?”

Little did she know it would lead to 16 years volunteering with the nonprofit 2/11 Marine Adoption Committee, providing tens of thousands of Marines with Christmas parties, baby showers, birthday balls, Halloween treats, Thanksgiving turkeys … you name it.

Add another 1,000 Marines and their families to the list next month when Anderson, now president of the nonprofit, leads the annual Marine holiday party at Camp Pendleton.

“This is going to be the biggest holiday party we’ve ever hosted,” she says, listing the preparations. They include: two 16-foot trucks of toys, hundreds of hand-stitched blankets, dinner for 1,000, raffles, photographers, face-painters, a DJ, party decorations, Santa and, of course, a team of volunteers to make it all happen.

“We have amazing volunteers,” Anderson says. “And the people of Irvine are generous and supportive. We are a 100% volunteer organization and could not do this without the partnership of the community, so thank you, Irvine!”

The city co-hosts the annual toy drive with collection boxes at City Hall and the Great Park Visitors Center during business hours from Nov. 1 to Dec. 11, and drive-through drop-offs at 2 Civic Center Plaza from 9 a.m. to noon on Dec. 3 and Dec. 9. Several businesses and neighborhoods participate, as well.

“The people of Irvine are generous and supportive. We are a 100% volunteer organization and could not do this without the partnership of the community.” – Tina Anderson

Toys should be new, unwrapped and appropriate for children up to age 12. Irvine students help with the gift-wrapping.

As the party draws near, the workload for Anderson and her volunteers increases to 12 hours, and sometimes 18 hours, a day.

“I have other people as dedicated as I am,” she says.

Some scour the sales all year round to stockpile flat-screen TVs, electronics and other giveaways for the Marines themselves. Some recently worked in 90-degree heat to hand out cribs and strollers at the annual Marine baby shower. Others sew fleece blankets for Marines – the most popular giveaway at each holiday party.

“The ‘thank you’ from a Marine is payment enough,” Anderson says. “Just knowing that what we do matters – that’s why we do it.”

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