A Merry Christmas for area children | NevadaAppeal.com

A Merry Christmas for area children

Story | Photos by Steve Ranson
Two-year-old Jade meets Santa at Toys for Tots.

Her daughter wiggled on to Santa’s lap to ask for a few presents.

The Fallon 2-year-old showed some shyness, but she warmed up to the man in the red and white suit while her mother watched. For Theresa Lampley and her daughter Jade, both were overwhelmed with the generosity shown by Churchill County residents.

“Last year was a good Christmas because Jade loved everything she got,” said her mother, touting praises for both the community and the United States Marine Corps Reserves Toys for Tots program.

Lampley said 2015 has been a rough year but the toys will add a ray of happiness for her daughter.

“This year I have not been able to give her anything except from here,” she said.

Nearly 3,000 new toys and clothes were donated this year to Toys for Tots, which services three counties including Churchill. Older toys , though, were donated to other charities trying to bring more cheer to children.

“The last two weeks have been crazy,” said Harry Hines, a Marine veteran who is recognized by his trademark red Toys for Tots blazer. “We had 978 children, and each child received at least three toys.”

Hines has spent portions of three decades assisting the local Toys for Tots program, ensuring children are blessed with presents. Not only is Hines happy with the smiling faces he sees but also is pleased with the number of civilian and military volunteers who collect toys and distribute them to the families.

This year volunteers donned in Marine and Navy uniforms arrived early at the distribution point arranged in a vacant section of the Beverage Mart facing toward a side parking lot.

“Having a few Marines in uniform helps, and the Navy with its sailors has participated beyond what is expected. They have helped at all the events,” he said.

Cpl. John Ezell, who attended a gathering at the American Legion Post 16 the night before the distribution, said people were still donating toys. Since the Churchill County High School graduate joined the military and has now assisted with Toys for Tots for several years, his attitude about the holidays has changed.

“It’s not about me anymore, it’s about Christmas,” Ezell explained. “It helps to bring Christmas to the children, and it’s worth it.”

Likewise IS2 Jimmy Cady is spending his fourth year helping with the toy campaign. Cady, who has spent two consecutive tours in Fallon, said the number of toys given by the residents is great.

“I’m impressed with the same people who donate their time to hand out toys,” he added.

IS2 Jessica Adkisson spent time in front of Walmart helping the Marines.

“My second year … I’m more involved with the volunteers this year,” she said. “I have attended every fundraiser on the weekend and in between.”

Hines said having the military volunteers in uniform makes a big impression with the people and their children receiving toys.

“Having the military in uniform from any service makes a big difference to the public,” Hines said. “It allows the people to say thank you to our veterans.”

During the holiday season, the Toys for Tots also received major support from the Iron Order Motorcycle Club, which held its annual toy drive. A caravan with motorcycles, automobiles and a Humvee with Santa Claus in the turret escorted “the toy truck” to the American Legion where each toy was placed under a Christmas tree.

“It’s all about the kids,” said Robert “Squelch” Lipman. At this time of year, you do this for the children.”

IOMC has performed its toy run for six years and also asks the community for help for the Fallon Youth Club’s raffle. Lipman said IOMC handed out more than 100 certificates of appreciation to those who helped with donations.

“We have a good reputation around town,” Lipman pointed out.

Perhaps Jamie Hutchinson said it best for the area’s generosity, especially toward her and her young family who received toys.

“It’s nice to have kids grow up in a small town and have respect for adults,” she said. “I love Fallon. I wouldn’t live anywhere else.”

In addition to Toys for Tots, the Wishing Tree program administered by the Churchill County Social Services and the Independent Telecommunications Pioneer Association provided toys and clothes. The Nevada Army National Guard armory was used to store big bags of toys and served as the distribution center on Monday morning for several hours.

“We were able to fill every request,” said Dawn Ballard who has coordinated Wishing Tree for 18 years.

The program provided toys for 80 families and 233 children. This year, though, it had fewer 17 fewer families and 46 fewer children.

Most children received their first wish and then another item, usually a toy. Over the years Ballard said first choices have included learning toys, bedding sets, clothes and blankets.

Ballard said each child received at least three to four items.

Eligibility for both the Toys and Tots and Wishing Tree program is based on family income. Shannon Ernst, director of Social Services, said once families reached a certain income level for Wishing Tree, they were then referred to Toys for Toys. Ernst said the process through Social Services is thorough.

Social Services began receiving applications in August and then determined eligibility.

“It was nicer to cut off the application deadline earlier,” Ballard said. “It gave us a longer time to purchase gifts.”

Ballard said Wishing Tree tries to keep the number of families between 250-300 to ensure everyone receives presents.

Ernst said the city donated $1,000 out of its Mayor’s Youth Fun, and a resident gave $1,000 toward the program. Other people gave smaller donations.

“Those small amounts add up,” Ernst said.

Banner Churchill Community Hospital sponsored 50 families, which Ernst called “amazing.” Both Ernst and Ballard said residents should be commended for their donations.

“If it weren’t for the community, we wouldn’t be able to do this,” Ballard added.

Andrea (no last name given) said Wishing Tree is a great program.

“It helps families who work but don’t make enough,” she said. “Then so many are also out of work.”

Andrea, along with a man named Jose, both said Wishing Tree makes a difference.

“People love children here,” he said.