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Getting into the holiday ‘Spirit’

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Getting into the holiday ‘Spirit’

In the spirit of charity, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. is using its “Spirit” blimp fleet to help children in need over the holiday season.

Goodyear is helping the United States Marine Corps Reserve with its Toys for Tots Foundation. The yearly event is held in three parts of the country, not coincidentally where Goodyear moors its three North American airships.

In Akron, Ohio, and Pompano Beach, Fla., visitors can drop off toys or cash by driving through the blimp hangars. The Akron hanger, located at Wingfoot Lake, houses the Spirit of Goodyear. Pompano Beach is the home of the Spirit of Innovation.

In Carson, Calif., near Torrance, there is no hangar. The Spirit of America is moored to a mast in the airfield on the blimp base.

For the event, the Spirit of America is “moored to a special expeditionary mast and brought in close to the main office building,” according to Elizabeth Flynn, airship public relations manager in Carson. “In that way, people can drive through the gate and drop off toys or cash with the airship right there.”

Carson holds more of an “open house” than the other bases, with food and refreshments for the many volunteers who help run the campaign. In Ohio and Florida, the hangars are decorated for Christmas, but the visitors do not get out of their vehicles as they drive through.

“We have a drawing for a flight aboard the Spirit of America,” says Flynn. “Anyone who comes to the open house is eligible, whether they donate anything or not. We also give up-close tours of the airship whenever possible during the open house.”

Flynn says the community really gets involved with all the preparations, and has a great time helping Goodyear employees transform the base into Goodyear’s legendary Santa Claus Express, complete with Marines in dress blues, Christmas music, trees and lots of holiday lights and decorations.

Last year, the 2012 Pasadena Rose Queen and her court officially kicked off the celebration in California by donating new, unwrapped toys to USMC Reserve officers at the Carson base (only new, unwrapped toys and cash are accepted). More than 60 Southern California Goodyear tire dealers joined in the Spirit of America’s toy drive, making it one of the largest local drives in Toys for Tots history.

This year’s open house will be held Dec. 15-16 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 19200 S. Main St. in Gardena, Calif. For more information, call (310) 327-6565.

The Ohio event will be held Nov. 30, Dec. 1 and 2. For more information, call (330) 796-8151. Due to a planned hangar re-build and envelope stretching, the Pompano Beach base may not participate this year. For more information, call (954) 946-8300.

For additional information, the public can visit the blimp’s page at    ■

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