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HOLLYWOOD, Calif. – First Entertainment Credit Union and the Toys for Tots program are brothers of sorts, coming together at the holidays just like family. Interestingly, both got their start on the Warner Brothers studio lot: Toys for Tots in 1947, and First Entertainment in 1967. The two non-profits are connected to this day, as FECU is an active supporter of the charity. Former Warner Brothers Studios publicity director Bill Hendricks is considered the father of the Toys for Tots program, said First Entertainment CEO Chuck Bruen. It began around Christmas in 1947, when Hendricks was looking for a way to donate a knitted rag doll his wife had made for a needy child in the area. Hendricks discovered there was no distribution channel available. In addition to his work in the movie biz, Hendricks was also a major in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, and suggested to his commanding officer that the Marine Reservists initiate a toy drive. Nearly 60 years later, the program is a nationwide fixture at the Holidays, with Marine Reservists distributing more than seven million toys each year. First Entertainment’s involvement began in 1989, when a credit union member involved in the charity approached Bruen. Both men shared the Semper Fi brotherhood of being former Marines. Bruen gathered the troops, so to speak, and founded the Toys for Tots Southern California Area Advisory Council, which recruits local civilians and businesses to support the Marine Reservists’ toy collection and distribution efforts. “What’s happened now with the first Gulf War and now the war in Iraq, is that the Marines have been very short handed domestically, so the civilian support is that much more important,” Bruen said. First Entertainment supports the cause by promoting the toy drive to its members in statement stuffers, on-hold messages and on its Web site, said Jon Paulson, marketing manager. The credit union supervises collection barrels at four of its branches, although Paulson said members can bring toys to any branch and the credit union will deliver them internally to the correct location. Warner Brothers Studio volunteers provide collection barrels for the credit union, and pick up toys from branches at the end of the drive. Bruen said FECU also designed and maintains the advisory council’s Web site. “Our Webmaster, Paul Partida, volunteers his own time to maintain the Web site, which deserves recognition,” the CEO said. -

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