Many children go without the joy we all took for granted growing up – the joy of unwrapping a new toy on Christmas morning. The United States Marine Corps is committed to changing that. The mission of the Marines’ Toys for Tots program is to collect new, unwrapped toys during October, November and December and distribute them to ensure each child receives a toy on Christmas morning. 

“My father is a retired Marine and I remember he and his fellow Marines collecting and delivering toys to needy families during the holidays,” said Steve Godwin, Director of Talent Operations at Essentials PetCare, “It was an example that I aspired to. As a result, I have been volunteering with the Marines’ Toys for Tots Program for several years.”

Many of Steve’s coworkers from his prior employer and friends in Tallahassee are former Marines, retired Marines or part of the extended Marines family. They wanted to assist the local Marines Reserve Unit in their toy collection efforts, so they formed a 501(c) charity − Friends of Toys for Tots. Every year, a few weeks before Christmas, they host a holiday gathering. In exchange for an unwrapped toy or modest monetary contribution, their guests enjoy a North Carolina style “Pig Pickin’” Barbecue with all the fixings, an open bar, desserts and live bands. 

“We hosts cover 100% of the cost of the party so that every dollar contributed goes to the Marines and the Toys for Tots program, said Steve. “We also receive support from the Marine Corps League, local businesses and the ROTC units at Florida A&M and Leon High School, which goes a long way towards helping us feed and entertain several hundred guests. Each year we are able to deliver a sizeable truckload of toys and several thousand dollars in contributions to the Marines to help in their efforts. It is exhausting throwing such a large party, but what we are able to achieve and the difference we are able to make in our small corner of the world makes it totally worth it.

“My late friend, Master Gunnery Sergeant Timothy Carlisle, USMC, summed it up nicely: ‘For Marines, the mission always comes first. And the children are the mission.’ Unfortunately, despite how many toys the Marines receive each year, there is never enough to fill the requests received. So, the mission is a continuous one.”

Steve has over twenty years of human resources experience and service as counsel to senior management. Prior to joining Essentials PetCare, he called Tallahassee home, serving as legal counsel to several Florida executive branch agencies and most recently as Director of House Administration for the Florida House of Representatives.

He received a Juris Doctor degree, a master’s degree in Public Administration, and a bachelor’s degree in International Affairs & Political Science from Florida State University. Steve says he enjoys working for a company like Essentials PetCare that “offers a team management approach to performance and productivity, which provides a fun, exciting, and challenging work environment, and for which my contribution is meaningful to me, my employer and the public.”