Compassionate Camaraderie

Toys for Tots

This article was written by Katrina D McNair NowMagazines.com in April 2010

Marines are known for their bravery, fearlessness and their unwillingness to leave another fellow Marine brother behind or in need. This resolve to take care of their own has been the catalyst for a local gathering of marines, whose sole aim is to support their local Marines, be it with finances or fun.

 Rick Pollak, along with Bret Frye and Thomas Mendonca, are three of the founding members of the Mansfield Area Marines. The nonprofit organization was established to provide support for Mansfield area Marines, both active and former. More than just a financial support system, the organization has quickly become a place for Marines to socialize and brainstorm ways to show the compassionate side of the Marine Corps.

Reared in Grand Prairie, Rick moved to Mansfield after leaving the Marine Corps in 2001, following four years of service. From a family with deep Marine Corps roots, the call to serve was second nature to him — though there were other perks. “The college money was a plus,” he said, grinning.

After leaving the Marine Corps and returning to Mansfield, all three guys, naturally drawn to one another through their shared military experience and crossed paths, began hanging out with each other, their service the strong common bond. “We put together this group, mainly like a networking and social group for Marines to hang out together, to talk, tell war stories — whatever. And then we decided we wanted to give back. And this was the best way to do that, to help out Marines and their families,” Rick said.

“The Marines are always like a first-response [team] — we’re kinda known for that — and this was kind of our way, if anything ever happened to a local area Marine, if we had a group of people together, we can all chip in and give someone a check,” added Bret, who served for eight years, joining during the Desert Storm conflict in 1990.

“… we decided we wanted to give back. This was the best way to do that, to help out Marines and their families.”

Though Marines were eligible for financial assistance once they returned home, especially those wounded in battle, paperwork takes time to push through various channels. Recognizing this, a “pass-the-hat” to help was the main fundraising efforts utilized by the group. However, as they saw needs increase, and as they sought to expand their fundraising efforts by asking local businesses for assistance, becoming “official” became their mission and goal. “When we started doing fundraising efforts, that’s when we decided to form a nonprofit,” Bret explained. “If we’re going to ask companies or whatever to donate, we felt we needed a legal entity behind us to make them feel better about us.”

Roughly six-to-eight months after their initial social escapades, the group came together and formed Mansfield Area Marines in the summer of 2007.

With the assistance of a local lawyer and accountant, the group worked to establish their nonprofit status and now have a membership of approximately 35 paid members. The group has a board of directors, bylaws and is officially recognized by the State of Texas. Meetings are held on the first Monday of every month, at Fat Daddy’s Sports & Spirits Café in Mansfield. Since their inception, the group has donated roughly $