AMERICUS, Ga. (WALB) - Each month, WALB and Montlick and Associates take time to recognize the “Heroes Among Us.”
In 2016, WALB spoke with Willie Yarbrough, who, along with fellow veteran Arthur Cooper, helped found American Legion Post 558′s annual “Christmas Joy” project.
Cooper passed away several years ago.
At the time, Yarbrough, a former member of the National Guard, explained that he would continue the project as long as he could.
“We thought it was a program that was too important to just let it go away,” he said in 2016. “I don’t know who’s in line next, but I’m going to try to keep it going as long as I’m alive and healthy.”
He and Cooper started the project nearly 40 years ago.
Yarbrough’s daughter Jayne said they collected new and used toys to give to children in the Americus area for Christmas.
“As a little girl, my father and Mr. Cooper had already had a vision of other kids waking up on Christmas Day with a Christmas toy, something up under the tree,” she said.
“Once (Cooper) passed away, Buddy Yarbrough took the torch and brought it on forward to where we are now,” said Willie Young, another organizer of the project.
Yarbrough kept the project going, until this year.
His daughter said he passed away with COVID-19.
“I know people were thinking, would it continue?” she said. “I always helped my dad from a little girl up, and I just didn’t want to let it go.”
So, she did not let it go, and neither did her dad’s fellow American Legion members.
“Each child will get a bike, or whatever they ask for mostly,” Yarbrough’s daughter said. “We do bicycles, games, dolls, makeup, anything they ask for...scooters. Just something for them to enjoy.”
“This has been a pretty hard year for everybody, but we figured that we needed to come out and try to do what we can for the community,” Young said.
They’re keeping it going in memory of the two men whose generosity stood out.
“They were thinking of others instead of themselves,” Jayne said. “My dad always put people first.”
The Division of Family and Children Services gave them a list of 20 families in need this year.
They delivered the toys to them in the days before Christmas.
“Every year, if you could just see the smile on these kids’ faces when they’re getting a bicycle or some type of toy, it really makes a difference in my life,” Young said. “It makes my Christmas go better.”
They said they hope to continue the legacy of these men as long as they can.
“I don’t want his dream to go away,” Jayne said of her father. “I just wanted to keep it going.”
If you know a special military hero you want to nominate, click here.