Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes donates the first gifts to Jo Leili, a volunteer coordinator for Operation Open Arms, for Project Little Soldier to benefit children of deployed U.S. military personnel today at in Hamilton.Full size photo

Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes donates the first gifts to Jo Leili, a volunteer coordinator for Operation Open Arms, for Project Little Soldier to benefit children of deployed U.S. military personnel today at in Hamilton.

Contact: Julie Willmot
(609) 278-7137

TRENTON, N.J. -Mercer County Brian M. Hughes today accepted an award for his work with Operation Open Arms, a local volunteer organization that solicits and sends personal items to U.S. military members all over the world, and also announced the County's toy donation drive for the 2007 holiday season.

Hughes was presented with a plaque of appreciation by Rob Marrazzo, owner of Marrazzo's Auto Body in Hamilton and a coordinator for Operation Open Arms, his wife, Jo Leili, and his son, Rob, at Mercer County Connection on Route 33 in Hamilton for organizing a successful County-wide drive this past spring to collect thousands of comfort items from toothpaste to snacks to games to ship to U.S. soldiers serving in Iraq.

He announced that Mercer County's charity toy drive this year will benefit "Project Little Soldier, run by non-profit organization, American Recreational Military Services (ARMS). The County is seeking gift donations from residents, which will be collected for the children of deployed U.S. soldiers who are unable to buy holiday presents for their families. The children receive gifts from the organization in the name of their parent.

"In these times, when thousands of members of the military from our area from active troops to reserves are being deployed abroad, they leave behind their families and children," said Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes. "These deployments are especially difficult during the holidays. By donating a gift to Project Little Soldier, you can help make the holiday brighter for the child whose parent or guardian is serving abroad."

Hughes asks those who wish to donate to purchase gifts appropriate for children aged infant to teen. Gifts recommended by ARMS include: baby toys and clothes, children's hats and gloves, picture books, stuffed animals, pajamas, dolls, Lego's, toy cars, art supplies, board games, CDs/DVDs, backpacks, books, sports supplies, and gift cards to stores like Target, Wal-Mart, and Best Buy. There is no minimum or maximum to spend on a gift.

Those wishing to donate should bring donations to the McDade Administration Building at 640 South Broad Street or Mercer County Connection at Route 33 and Paxson Avenue in Hamilton by December 10.