Santa’s helpers throughout Churchill County can now take a long-awaited, well-deserved break after providing clothes and toys for hundreds of boys and girls.
Both the annual Wishing Tree and Toys for Tots programs provided a smile to more than 400 children during their 2019 campaigns.
Churchill County Social Services and the Independent Telecommunications Pioneer Association sponsor Wishing Tree, and the Nevada Army National Guard armory on East Richards Street serves as the distribution center by storing big bags of unwrapped items.
Dawn Ballard, a human resources generalist with CC Communications, said Wishing Tree helped 125 children as parents or guardians picked up the items two days before Christmas. Once the items were picked up, Ballard said parents or the guardians then had the opportunity to personalize the gifts by wrapping them. Ballard said people donated jackets and blankets, the Hearts O’ Gold quitters made quilts for the children and realtors gathered toys, jackets, gloves and scarves.
“Every youth gets a new outfit,” Ballard said.
Both Ballard and Shannon Ernst, director of Churchill County Churchill Services said most requests didn’t list toys as the first choice.
“Their top priority is clothing,” Ernst said. “We are getting more practical requests.”
Many parents said they were grateful to the many people of Churchill County who donated.
“This gives me hope,” said Sierra (no last name given), who has two children ages 12 and 5. “They will wake up with smiles on their faces.”
Sierra said the organizers and many businesses in the community always provide for those in need. Sierra said she works hard, but once the paycheck goes for food, electricity and rent, there’s not much left.
Sierra also helps others in need. Last year, her children received more than enough toys and clothing, so they gave their neighbors the additional gifts.
“People out there are willing to help,” she said.
Meanwhile, members of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves and Marine retirees began gathering gifts for the area’s children during the summer. Heading into the final week before Christmas, Orville “Junior” Wempner, a retired Marine and organizer of the annual toy drive, said they had completed filling about 375 requests, but they received 20 more.
Wempner said the community donated hundreds of toys, and the Toys for Tots seasonal storage building, the former Sierra Jewelry and Loan, housed both the smaller toys and dozens of bicycles. He said Toys for Tots set up about 30 collection boxes at local businesses and the Navy Exchange at Naval Air Station Fallon. He said the distribution of toys not only went to Fallon families but also to those in Fernley, Lovelock and parts of Silver Springs.
Between Thanksgiving and the week before Christmas, Wempner said volunteers were busy. A Toys for Tots truck was parked at Walmart at least once a week, and a truck was also set up to collect toys at the annual Fallon Lights of Christmas. Iron Order Motorcycle Club conducted its annual toy run in early December to assist the Marines.