Nashos keep on ‘giving back’

National Servicemen's Association president Mike Smith delivers thousands of Christmas toys to Major Warren Elliott from The Salvation Army. (Stewart Chambers: 413364)

by Cam Lucadou-Wells

The National Servicemen’s Association South-East branch has again come to the fore with its 21st annual Christmas toy drive.

On Saturday 6 July, the ‘nashos’ – many of them in their 80s – delivered thousands of toys to The Salvation Army depot in Doveton.

Over the drive’s history, they’ve collected up to 150,000 toys for underprivileged kids across Victoria.

“It’s been a big thing over 21 years – there’s been a lot of money raised for new toys and a lot of toys donated,” NSA president Mike Smith said.

“The rule is to give toys that any other kid would love to have.”

The toy drive had grown out of a desire to “give back” to the Salvos.

The Salvos were there for the branch members while they were young men out of home for the first time and stationed at bases such as Puckapunyal during their National Service last century.

Some of the raw recruits needed help to write a letter home or even to make a cup of tea.

“The biggest problem with this organisation is the members are getting older. Most of us are in our eighties,” Mr Smith said.

“Even though our National Service was in the 1950’s and 60’s, we’re still serving our community.

“But who knows – this could be the last one.”