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Airmen from the FOL Manta spread holiday cheer

1st Lt. Whitney Lewis and Staff Sgt. Jamie Lewis, who are both deployed to the FOL Manta from Tinker AFB, hand out toys to students at Angelica Flores, which is a school for disabled children in Manta, Ecuador.  The toys were handed out as part of the FOL Manta’s Toys for Tots program.  This year the members of the FOL were able to hand out more than 4500 toys to 20 different local organizations. (U.S. Air Force photo/1st Lt. Malinda Singleton)

1st Lt. Whitney Lewis and Staff Sgt. Jamie Lewis, who are both deployed to the FOL Manta from Tinker AFB, hand out toys to students at Angelica Flores, which is a school for disabled children in Manta, Ecuador. The toys were handed out as part of the FOL Manta’s Toys for Tots program. This year the members of the FOL were able to hand out more than 4500 toys to 20 different local organizations. (U.S. Air Force photo/1st Lt. Malinda Singleton)

Lt. Col. Kirby Simmons, 478th Expeditionary Operations Squadron director of operations, passes out toys to children at a local school here in Manta, Ecuador.  The toys were given as part of the FOL Manta Toys for Tots program.  This year members of the FOL were able to hand out more than 4500 toys to 20 different local organizations. (U.S. Air Force photo/1st Lt. Malinda Singleton)

Lt. Col. Kirby Simmons, 478th Expeditionary Operations Squadron director of operations, passes out toys to children at a local school here in Manta, Ecuador. The toys were given as part of the FOL Manta Toys for Tots program. This year members of the FOL were able to hand out more than 4500 toys to 20 different local organizations. (U.S. Air Force photo/1st Lt. Malinda Singleton)

Airman 1st Class Mitia Jackson, who is deployed to FOL Manta from Langley AFB, and Senior Airman Omar Torres, who is deployed to the FOL from Tinker AFB, help sort more than 4500 toys.  The toys were handed out as part of the FOL Manta’s Toys for Tots program.  (U.S. Air Force photo/1st Lt. Malinda Singleton)

Airman 1st Class Mitia Jackson, who is deployed to FOL Manta from Langley AFB, and Senior Airman Omar Torres, who is deployed to the FOL from Tinker AFB, help sort more than 4500 toys. The toys were handed out as part of the FOL Manta’s Toys for Tots program. (U.S. Air Force photo/1st Lt. Malinda Singleton)

Senior Master Sgt. Clayton French, 478th Expeditionary Operations Squadron first sergeant, helps a girl at Shekinah Orphanage in Manta, Ecuador with her new toy.  The toys were given out as part of the FOL Manta’s Toys for Tots program.  (U.S. Air Force photo/1st Lt. Malinda Singleton)

Senior Master Sgt. Clayton French, 478th Expeditionary Operations Squadron first sergeant, helps a girl at Shekinah Orphanage in Manta, Ecuador with her new toy. The toys were given out as part of the FOL Manta’s Toys for Tots program. (U.S. Air Force photo/1st Lt. Malinda Singleton)

Two children at OSCUS, a vocational school in Manta, Ecuador, play with their toys that were given to them as part of the FOL Manta’s Toys for Tots program.  This year the members of the FOL were able to hand out more than 4500 toys to 20 different local organizations.  (U.S. Air Force photo/1st Lt. Malinda Singleton)

Two children at OSCUS, a vocational school in Manta, Ecuador, play with their toys that were given to them as part of the FOL Manta’s Toys for Tots program. This year the members of the FOL were able to hand out more than 4500 toys to 20 different local organizations. (U.S. Air Force photo/1st Lt. Malinda Singleton)

FORWARD OPERATING LOCATION MANTA, Ecuador -- Members of the Forward Operating Location Manta, Ecuador kicked off the holidays by spreading a little cheer to children throughout the local community here.

Airmen, local contractors from ITT Corporation, and Manta FOL Firefighters handed out more than 4500 toys to children at 20 different locations as part the Toys for Tots campaign.

"Our goal is to always try and give out one more toy than we did last year," said Jaime Jimenez, a former chief master sergeant in the Air Force and now site manager for ITT Corporation here at the FOL. "This year we were able to double the number of toys we were able to give out, which is beyond what I even anticipated."

Six of the locations included organizations that members of the FOL volunteer at on a regular basis, to include a school for disabled children, a vocational school, two orphanages, a hospital with a unit for burn victims, and a community center where members teach English to children. The rest of the locations included schools and neighborhoods in Manta.

Most of the toys were purchased at local vendors with money that was raised from fundraisers here at the FOL. Other toys were donated by churches in the U.S., as well as by friends and family members of deployed personnel.

"When I heard we were doing Toys for Tots, I asked some of my friends to send me some toys that we could pass out," said 1st Lt. Whitney Lewis, an air weapons officer on the AWACS who is currently deployed here from Tinker Air Force Base. "It makes me happy to know that my home unit [963rd EAACS] and I are able to make a child's Christmas here in Ecuador a little brighter."

The Toys for Tots campaign in Ecuador was started by members of the FOL Fire Department when they all chipped in to help purchase toys in 2003. In 2005 deployed members at the FOL joined the firefighters and began collecting money to help purchase toys. In 2006 and 2007 most of the toys were purchased with money raised by various fundraisers at the FOL. .

"We could not have done it without the help from the deployed Airmen, firefighters and contractors of the FOL," said Chaplain (Capt.) Jason Knudeson. "If it wasn't for their help through fundraisers and donations to our community relations program, we would not be able to hand out as many toys as we did. Thank you all for your help!"

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