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Vernon County Toys for Tots program makes Christmas bright

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Hello from Santa

Santa Claus waves to passersby during the Viroqua Fire Department's Toys for Tots drive-thru donation event, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020. Santa will be on hand for the 2021 drive-thru donation and chili supper event on Wednesday, Dec. 1.

Volunteers with the Vernon County Toys for Tots program are once again working hard to bring Christmas cheer to area children in need.

Kay Deaver, who helps organize the program along with her husband Kenneth, said every year 10 elves help sort and organize the toys and gifts and shop all year long to keep the shelves stocked. They also help pack and distribute the Christmas gift bags.

“Each year we try to improve the efficiency of the program,” Deaver said.

Each year the program helps between 500 and 600 children. In 2020, 547 children received gifts and toys.

“People are absolutely wonderful – we ask and someone is there to help,” Deaver said. “It’s amazing what people will do.”

She said the Viroqua police and fire departments are always helpful, as is the Vernon County Sheriff’s Office.

How the program works

Only parents and guardians of children ages 0-13 are able to request gifts, and they must be Vernon County residents.

Parents and guardians who need help may 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 to take calls until Dec. 17. Deaver said when parents and guardians call, everything is done confidentially, as is the packing of Christmas gifts.

Parents will be able to pick up the Christmas gifts near Quilt Basket ‘n’ Creations, which is located on FS Drive on Viroqua’s south side, Monday, Dec. 20, from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Just like last year, pickup will be drive-through only, and people must wear masks and stay in their vehicles. When parents come to pick up their bag of Christmas gifts, a number will be placed on their side view mirror or windshield to determine the order of pickup. There will be signs and volunteers directing traffic.

Gift requests

Even though the volunteer elves shop for toys and gifts all year long, there are always a few gaps that need to be filled.

The program can always use books for all ages, basketballs, baseballs, footballs, baseball mitts and games for all ages. There is also a need for gift cards that would be suitable for boys and girls age 10-13. “Gift cards for that age group would be wonderful,” Deaver said. She also suggested DVDs, quilts and blankets for the older boys and girls.

The program continues the tradition of including mittens, glove, hats, scarves and socks in the gift bags, so there is always a need for those items. The tradition began when the late Lloyd and Darlene Ray helped establish the program more than 50 years ago.

Deaver said only new toys can be donated to the program.

How to help

The Viroqua Fire Department will host a drive-through chili supper at the station, 702 E. Broadway, Wednesday, Dec. 1, from 5 to 7:30 p.m. The training tower will be decorated with lights and Santa will be on one of the fire engines waving to children and their families. In addition, firefighters will be collecting money in their boots and toys.

Checks, made payable to Vernon County Toys for Tots, may be mailed to Kay and Kenneth Deaver, S4771 Deaver Rd., Viroqua, WI 54665.

People can also drop their spare change in jars located in Westby and Viroqua businesses.

Toys for the tots

New toys and other gift items fill the bed of a Viroqua Fire Department pickup truck, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020.

Angela Cina can be reached at angie.cina@lee.net.

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Vernon County Times editor

Angie Cina is editor of the Vernon County Times. Contact her at 608-637-5616.

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