Volunteers with the Vernon County Toys for Tots program are getting ready to help fulfill Christmas wishes for children in need.
Each year the program helps between 500 and 600 children. Kay Deaver, who helps organize the program, said 547 children were given Christmas last year.
How the program works
Parents who need help are asked to call the Viroqua Police Department at 608-637-2121 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, and provide the needed information. The department will continue taking calls until Dec. 13.
Only parents and guardians of children ages 0-13 are able to request items, and they must be Vernon County residents. When parents call, everything is done anonymously, as is the packing of Christmas gifts.
Parents will be able to pick up the Christmas gifts in the space underneath Quilt Basket ‘n’ Creations, which is located on FS Drive on Viroqua’s south side, Monday, Dec. 16, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Gift requestsVolunteers shop for toys and gift items all year long. Their work amps up in September after the Vernon County Fair, when a group of about nine volunteers meet every Tuesday to sort toys and organize them on shelves. Shelves are labeled by age group, Deaver said, so packing in December goes smoothly.
“They do a wonderful job,” Deaver said. “They are a wonderful group of people. May say, ‘This is our Christmas.’ These people are our core group.”
Deaver said the volunteers tweak the packing system every year “so we can make for the best Christmas for the kids.”
As the Tuesday volunteers sort and organize items, they take note of gaps that need to be filled.
This year, Deaver said, there is a need for gifts for boys and girls age 6-7 and 8-9. Suggestions include basketballs, soccer balls and games. Movie passes that also include gift certificates for pop and popcorn are also suggestions.
Hats and mittens for all ages are also welcome donations. Deaver said Lloyd and Darlene Ray were among the program’s early organizers and started the tradition of including hats and mittens with the Christmas gifts. “We want to keep that going.”
Deaver pointed out that she and the other volunteers appreciate donations of any toys and gifts that are appropriate for boys and girls of any age.
If people aren’t sure of what to purchase, they may donate money, which allows volunteers to buy gifts and toys to fill any gaps that may come up between now and packing day in December.
Deaver said the firefighters and the police department offer valuable help. “I don’t know what we’d do without them,” Deaver said.
The firefighters and members of the police department aren’t the only people in the community to help children served by the program. She said there is a volunteer who crochets afghans and there are churches that donate quilts.
“People are so willing to give beautiful things,” she said. “People are willing to bring toys to the chili supper or drop them off at the station. Everyone who has helped us has helped put the puzzle together.”
Deaver said many people are also willing to help by giving donations of money.
How to help
New toys, other gift items, gift certificates and movie passes can be dropped off at the Viroqua Police and Fire Station, 702 E. Broadway. If people have large items to donate, they may call Kay and Kenneth Deaver at 608-637-7120 to arrange a pick-up time, or the items can be dropped off at the station.
Checks, made payable to Vernon County Toys for Tots, may be dropped off at or mailed to the police and fire station, or mailed to Kay and Kenneth Deaver, S4771 Deaver Rd., Viroqua, WI 54665.
Another way for people to help is to attend the annual Toys for Tots Chili Supper, which is hosted and served by Viroqua firefighters and their families. This year’s supper is Wednesday, Dec. 4, from 4-8 p.m. or until all the food has been served.
This year’s supper will include new family-friendly features, thanks to a newly-formed fire department auxiliary. The auxiliary is made up of firefighters’ spouses and partners. Amanda Running, a member of the auxiliary, said the group’s purpose is to help the firefighters with their events.
New at this year’s chili supper children 10 and younger can choose either chili or spaghetti. The traditional chili (with or without noodles) will still be served. “A lot of times kids are not a fan of chili,” Running said.
There will also be a table with coloring sheets and colors to give children something to do while parents talk and eat. The finished coloring sheets, Running said, will be given to Deaver and they will be attached to the Toys for Tots gifts.
Children will also have an opportunity to participate in a cupcake walk from 5-7 p.m. or until the cupcakes are gone. The cost to play is 25 cents, and proceeds will be donated to Toys for Tots. The Wild West Days Court will be running the cake walk.
Santa will be dropping by the fire station and there will be live music by Viroqua High School students.
“We wanted extra activities for families to make for a fun evening,” Running said.
Angela Cina can be reached at email@example.com.