LAKEVILLE — The Lakeville Lions and LaPaz Lions billed their joint 2010 Toys for Tots campaign, “a bigger challenge.”
More than 1,500 toys, 63 food boxes for families with children and six more for senior citizens, record monetary contributions, boxes of donated clothes and winter wear, and a burgeoning number of community volunteers later, the groups certainly met the challenge.
Both Lions clubs spent the past several weeks raking in items, with a single blitz day in each town, as well as donation boxes located throughout the community.
Eligible families, selected through the efforts of the LaVille schools, township trustees, churches, and concerned individuals, streamed to the Union-North Ambulance Service building Saturday morning to partake of the community’s generosity and chat with Santa Claus. Even Rep. Joe Donnelly made an appearance for the second year in a row.
“We exceeded last year in terms of food, toys, and monetary donations,” Lakeville Lion and project chairman Dave Court said. “We enjoy the people, and they really appreciate what we do; we even had two or three people in tears.
“We have had some neat toys donated this year,” he added. “We had a rocking horse, expensive Lincoln Logs, shopping carts, bikes, a work bench, little kitchen set, just a very nice selection.”
A nice selection that widened many eyes and brightened many a young face among the nearly 170 toy recipients.
“The children’s faces light up when they see the toys and Santa,” Lakeville Lion Vic Fischer, assistant project chairman, said. “The community responded more than generously. For some families this is the only Christmas they’ll have this year. If we can give a little joy and help people, why, that’s what we’re here for.”
Started in 2003 by the Lakeville Lions, the LaPaz club joined the annual drive in 2009 and upped its presence this year.
“We’re enjoying the experience,” LaPaz Lion Al Burch said. “We did better at our blitz this year; we hope to do even better next year. Several people in the LaPaz area donated generously. I think we’re doing a lot of good, and we appreciate the opportunity to work together as Lions to help the community.”
This year’s efforts also received a boost from the Lakeville Community Sons of the American Legion, with increased toy and monetary aid, as well as manpower with Commander Brad Lee, Finance Officer Clint Richards, and member Loren Richards hauling out food boxes Saturday morning.
Richards said his participation in last year’s distribution day prompted him to join the Lakeville Lions and encourage the Sons of the American Legion’s heightened involvement.
“We’re here to help kids, make them smile, and make sure people have something for Christmas,” Loren Richards said. “Lakeville’s my hometown, too, and I want to help people in any way I can. To see the kids going out of here smiling and happy is really neat. Probably some people are afraid to ask for help. A lot of people are struggling and do need help, and that’s what we’re here to do.”
Lee said the sight of rows of tables loaded with a seemingly never-ending supply of toys was an eye-opening one.
“I didn’t know there would be this many toys for the kids,” Lee said. “It’s very well-organized, extremely efficient, just a great event for the community. Any community-based function, anything we can do to help, we’ll do. We look forward to assisting with Toys for Tots in the future.”
And the Sons of the American Legion can take a good deal of credit for the volume and variety of toys.
“After the blitz (the Lions) needed more stuff for 13- to 15-year-olds, so two of us went and bought toys for that age group,” Clint Richards said. “Today it’s been great to watch those little eyes light up when they see toys, or even a pair of gloves. These kids are just thrilled.”
Court stressed that any leftover money will go toward the Lakeville Lions’ involvement with Angel Food Ministries to feed needy people in the Lakeville-LaPaz area.
Meanwhile, with the drive expanding each year a bigger venue is in the cards.
“We’ve gone from 65 toys in the first year to more than 1,500 this year,” Court said. “We’ve outgrown (the ambulance building). The amazing thing is we don’t solicit money; we’re just the conduit for the community.”
And what explains the success?
“All the proceeds stay in the community; people see the results,” Fischer said. “We’re currently looking for a larger facility; that measures the success.”