August isn’t too early to begin thinking about Christmas (charity) | NevadaAppeal.com
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August isn’t too early to begin thinking about Christmas (charity)

Barry Ginter

I bumped into Jo Misuraca in a Carson City store at the end of a recent hot day and, to my amazement, we found ourselves talking about Christmas. Not about how many shopping days are left until then (only 137!), but about Toys for Tots.

Misuraca, one of the coordinators of the local toy drive, has already begun making plans. Now, normally, getting an early start on Toys for Tots means September or October. But July?

As it turns out, that’s what it takes when your goals are as lofty as hers. Last year, the program gave more than 3,000 toys to children in the region. This year, she’s aiming for more than 5,000.

“You wouldn’t believe how early you have to start to get all your ducks in a row,” she said.

Misuraca said she knows there are many local families they have not reached, and it’s common knowledge that we have many families living in poverty. Some don’t know about the program and others are just too proud to ask for help. To find them, she’s going to every community, social and youth group she can think of.

“If you’re saying community, don’t you have to reach everyone,” she said.

Misuraca said Carson City is one of the most benevolent communities she’s ever lived in and she has every confidence they’ll find enough toys for everyone.

“This is a very cool community because it takes care of itself,” she said.

So dedicated is she to the cause that she annually takes two weeks of vacation starting Dec. 15 so she can donate the time to Toys for Tots. Misuraca has been helping with the local toy drive for six years, and before that she volunteered for a similar cause in California. She’s also active in the Red Cross, groups that support domestic violence victims and Citizens for Affordable Housing.

That’s quite a workload for an 8 year old.

That’s her age according to her way of looking at life. The first 50 years was for various and sundry duties including raising a family of five children. The next 50 years is for giving back. “We get to start all over again,” she said.

In fact, she made sure there was a big “0” on her 50th birthday cake to emphasize the point.

Her reward for her time on Toys for Tots is imagining the happiness it brings into thousands of homes.

“When people don’t have a lot, it gives them a sense of giving and also a sense that someone out there cares about me.”

Toys for Tots could use more volunteers to contribute their time during the Christmas season (the real season, not July and August), and a heated, secure location to store and organize the toy donations. They have an open invitation to use the Appeal’s warehouse as they have in past years, but unfortunately it’s not heated, which makes for uncomfortable conditions for volunteers.

If you’re interested in helping or have heated space that could serve as a storage and sorting location, call Brandy White, another coordinator, at 297-1810.

•••

I have further evidence of Misuraca’s claim that Carson City is a benevolent community that takes care of its own.

Last week, I wrote about my visit with Heidi Manfroi, a 69-year-old wheelchair-bound woman living alone in a gutted mobile home. She’s an energetic, optimistic person who happens to be living in a mobile home that should be torn down.

At least that’s the assessment of some who’ve looked at the home … it just requires so much work to not only make it handicapped accessible, but to make it a reasonable place to live. There’s no water heater and her only appliances are a microwave oven and a refrigerator. She lived there last winter with no heat.

Manfroi has no intention of leaving her home and hopes to be able to fix it up again, even though she lives on just over $600 per month in Social Security.

Many people have since called Janice Ayres, director of RSVP, to offer their help. Almost all of the callers have been seniors themselves, some who’ve said they, too, are trying to make ends meet on Social Security alone but still wanted to contribute what they can. Others called to become RSVP volunteers, to visit with homebound seniors who have no one to talk to. Among them is a teenager who wants to visit Heidi regularly.

If you’re interested in helping Heidi, a bank account, the Heidi Manfroi Fund, has been set up at First National Bank of Nevada, 1101 North Carson, account number 16504831. So far, about $1,300 has been donated, including a $1,000 donation from a person who wishes to remain anonymous. Others have offered furniture, and Ayres is trying to find a group willing to help fix up Heidi’s home. She also said they are always in need of volunteers to visit with homebound seniors like Heidi. If you can help, call RSVP at 687-4680.

• Barry Ginter is editor of the Appeal. You can reach him by email at bginter@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1221.