By Suzanne Schmidt
In this world there are two kinds of people according to Bob Loring—People he needs to help and people who will help him help others.
Many people might know the 66-year-old San Antonio resident from his work as coordinator for the East Pasco Toys for Tots. Through the program, Loring helps children in poverty to get toys at Christmas and many other things they need.
“The goal is to rally support for a good idea,” Loring said. “If you make it easy for people to participate, they will. I just have to make sure that we are helping kids really in need. The school system identifies the kids for me because I don’t know.”
Once a marine, always a marine is the way Loring looks at it and that is why he loves being the coordinator for the Marine Corps program. He said he learned to adapt and overcome in the Marine Corps and he applies that to everything he does.
“It is a mission of the Marine Corps reserve, it is not just a program to me,” Loring said. “I think the greatest fighting force in the world never stood taller then when they stoop to help a child. This program works. The best pay is when someone walks up and puts a toy down and says that is for when you helped me when I was a child.”
Through his work with the Toys for Tots program, Loring saw there was a need for more than just toys. As a result, he has helped to start the Skivvies for Tots program and a Food for Tots program.
“Through Skivvies for Tots, children get underwear, socks and toothbrushes from the local Rotary,” Loring said. “The Food for Tots program is faith-based. They set up when we are giving out the presents and hand out food for the kids and their families.”
Loring also helped to inspire Anna Fulk to create Projects of Pasco, a program that hands out brand-new backpacks filled with school supplies to children in need.
“He is the number one ace in the hole,” Fulk said. “If it wasn’t for Bob, I would not have got involved with Toys for Tots or with getting school supplies. If everybody in the world could take just one-fourth of what Bob is about, then we would not have the problems we have today. Whenever he speaks, it comes from the heart.”
In addition to providing them with the supplies they need, Loring also shows them possible careers.
“We don’t just give them backpacks, we take them to the veterinarian’s office to learn about that career,” Loring said. “I think that kids have to see something before they can make it a goal. They see the veterinarian and then if they want to work with the animals, they learn what they have to do in order to do it. It gives them a reason to study hard.”
Loring is always coming up with inventive ways to help the children living in poverty in Pasco like the new Bikes for Tots program. Through a partnership of the East Pasco Toys for Tots and Boy Scouts of America, boys aged 9-11 who are receiving help from Toys for Tots can receive a bicycle if they join Scouts.
“The goal is to get children in poverty into scouting,” Loring said. “They will get a bike, a helmet and the Scouts will provide them with uniforms. I want to make the American Dream available for all our children.”
The need for supplies continues to increase every year.
“Since I started Toys for Tots, I have had to plan for a 10 percent increase but since the economy went down more people need help then ever,” Loring said. “With people out of work right now the demand is even higher. I think one day the demand will overwhelm me.”
Instead of asking for help from the government, Loring feels it is the responsibility of the community to take care of people.
“Everything I am doing has nothing to do with federal grants, state funding or local county funding,” Loring said. “It should be our community responsibility because if not it can’t be replicated. The federal funding is only good for maybe a few years but then it ends.”
Another project close to Loring’s heart is the American Dream Congress he started almost nine years ago because he felt people who work with children should network together. He invites teachers, students and any organization with an interest in children like Boy Scouts of America and the Salvation Army.
“We need to make sure all the services aren’t overlapping and find out what each other is up to,” Loring said. “When people start talking together, there are so many possibilities. I think people who work with children couldn’t work harder but we can work smarter.”
Loring moved to San Antonio from Miami in 1996 with his wife, Claudia, because his daughter Noelle Loring was going to school at the University of South Florida. Currently she lives in St. Petersburg.
“I was just planning on sitting here and watching the grass grow,” Loring said. “Then I got the call from the Marine Corp to help coordinate the Toys for Tots and I accepted the mission. I have become the face of it, but there are many other people helping to put this together. I wouldn’t be able to do this without all the help I get.”
In addition to Toys for Tots, Loring is also active in many other areas like the San Antonio Rotary Club, the Rotary E-Club, the Salvation Army, the Marine Corps League and The Samaritan Project in Zephyrhills.
Loring is a charter member and the current chaplain of the Marine Corps League in the area.
“The league is designed to promote the Marine Corps and to take care of our own,” Loring said. “We are not political but we manage to oversee anything affecting our veterans.”
In addition to all the things he does in the community, Loring also writes book reviews for Leatherneck, a Marine Corps magazine.
“I read a lot of military history because of my book reviews, but I like to read a lot of things,” Loring said. “I take it very seriously because I have a chance to influence the reading habits of marines. I also get the opportunity to talk to the living legends that write these books.”
Loring is motivated to help children in poverty because when he was young, he did not have much either.
“When I was a kid my dad was a teacher,” Loring said. “He was a brilliant man and he could have done a lot of things and make a lot of money but he didn’t. I wasn’t like the Toys for Tots children.”
He was also inspired to help because of all the good service he saw his dad Robert H. Loring and his grandfather Arthur Binford provide.
“They did what I do for the families in need when I was a child,” Loring said. “I get to get goods and services for the people who need them. They had the idea that a person belongs to the community, that there is a give and take.”
As another motivator, Loring said he likes to help people because there was a time in his life where he was not the best person. He is an alcoholic, but he has not had a drink since 1982.
“I never got in trouble but I did cause grief, pain and unhappiness for some people,” Loring said.
For more information, visit www.toysfortotspasco.org.