NJ university sends toys for commercial fishermen's children

By Danielle Thomas – bio | email

LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - People who work in the seafood industry can have a little more peace of mind that their children will wake up to gifts on Christmas morning. Kean University in New Jersey collected hundreds of toys and shipped them here to South Mississippi. Organizers said after hearing of the struggles caused by the BP oil spill, they wanted to help families of commercial fishermen and charter boat operators this holiday season.

There were dolls. There were games. And there was just about everything else a child would love to unwrap on Christmas day. Thomas Barnes and other volunteers gathered at the Long Beach harbor to sort through more than 650 donated toys.

"We got a lot of nice games. We've got toys for every age," said Barnes. "We've got a little bit of everything for everybody."

Barnes works as a deckhand and does some commercial fishing. He said during the height of the BP oil spill, Kean University professors asked him to take them to see the impact on the barrier islands.

"They were just awestruck by the devastation of the oil on the islands," Barnes said. "It stayed in their mind. They got the people rallied together up in the city of Union, New Jersey. Kean College is where they're from. They've really got a lot together for us down here to help us. "

Barnes said the toys will take a load off the minds of seafood industry workers. He said many are not back on their feet and have been worried about how they'll afford gifts for their children.

"It's hard to scrape up enough to make ends meet. You still have to pay bills. It's just one less thing that I hope they have to worry about," Barnes said, "From recovering from Katrina, we're still not back from that. Now we've got a foot on our throat from the oil spill and it's hard. I just hope this can really help out. I feel it will. "

Barnes said an outreach group on the Kean University campus called Be the Change put together the toy drive. Other organizations helped with shipping costs.

Thomas Barnes said the toys will be distributed at the Long Beach Harbor from 6p.m. until 9p.m. Monday. Santa Claus will also be making an appearance.

Copyright 2010 WLOX. All rights reserved.