Thursday will be like Christmas for more than 60 kids and families in the county, which is exactly the plan for the volunteers from Santa Sacks, Toys for Tots and St. Vincent de Paul, who will give away dozens of toys, shoes and food to people who need it in a massive operation at the Lewisport Community Center from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“It’s three programs working as one,” said Beth Payne, the store manager for the Lewisport St. Vincent de Paul store and the volunteer county coordinator for Toys for Tots.
“All of our programs are all volunteer,” she said. “I take vacation because I don’t get paid to come and do this.”
St. Vincent is providing shoes, socks and underwear for each child who signed up and met the income requirements, and each child will receive toys from the ones donated to Toys for Tots.
Noel Quinn and her husband Monty have run Santa Sacks for decades, and they were preparing the food that they will give to low income households to provide everything they’d need for a hearty Christmas meal.
“We are giving them a turkey, dressing, potatoes, a bag of fruit, green beans, corn, cranberry sauce, yams, fruit cocktail, chicken noodle soup, pie, rolls and then we’ve got toilet paper and tissue paper for them,” Noel Quinn said. “Plus Monty throws in a Bible for everybody and I’ve ordered two great big boxes of candy so we’re just going to drop hands full of peppermint candy down inside of them.”
Last year more than 100 volunteers gathered to sort the toys by age and gender, to prepare the meal packages, and to get ready for families to come through on the day of the giveaway.
“Everything’s different this year because of the virus,” Payne said. “We used to set all the toys up there at the big hall and let the parents come in and pick them out. This year the parents had to fill out a paper letting us know 10 toy ideas of what their children would like and our volunteers have to pick them out this year.
“It’s a lot more work behind the scenes but to get to do it we’ll do whatever we need to,” she said.
The number of volunteers is restricted too, down from more than 100 to only about a dozen allowed inside the building.
Preparing for the day of the giveaway is more than just a few days of gathering supplies.
“We start planning in February for the next Christmas,” Payne said.
And buying clothes and shoes and toys for kids of varying ages is not as easy as it sounds.
“It would shock you how many different sizes of underwear there are,” she said. “And shoes. Shoe sizes, you’re going from an infant all the way up to a size 15. Well there’s that many different sock sizes too.”
And on toys, sometimes kids want things that no one donates, so the group finds a way to get what they want.
“We have one little girl that just wants copy paper and crayons,” she said. “We never get copy paper donated so we usually go to Wal-Mart and buy like pink and blue and purple and green and white and give her different colors of copy paper, and she’s tickled pink. That’s all she wants every year.”
Something as simple as shoes can be complicated when it comes to how expensive they are, because they don’t want to give kids shoes they won’t wear.
“Shoe Stop in Owensboro… they work with us every year and give us a really good cost,” she said. “We went in there and spent $3,500 on 100 pairs of shoes.”
All of the costs for the shoes and toys and food all come from sales at the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store and from donations to the three nonprofits, 100 percent of which goes to help the needy.
As of Monday there were 61 bundles with individual children’s names on them, waiting to be picked up Thursday, but Payne said they’re prepared even for those who just show up unannounced.
“Thursday we will have at least 10 come through that didn’t sign up,” she said. “We don’t turn them away. We make them come back at the last 30 minutes because we usually plan for extra, and we take care of them.
“We’re not going to turn any kid away,” she said. “If a family needs help we’re going to help them.”
By Dave Taylor