Community lends a handOnce a year, Arthur Gil de Lamadrid plays Santa. No one sits on his knee; no pictures are taken.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Once a year, Arthur Gil de Lamadrid plays Santa. No one sits on his knee; no pictures are taken.
The lead fire inspector for the Superior Fire Department doesn’t even don the red suit and beard. But for two days, he and fellow volunteers make Christmas wishes come true through the Toys for Tots program.
“Deep down I really enjoy it,” said Gil de Lamadrid, who co-chairs the program with fellow firefighter Les Luder. “I like doing things for other people.”
He enjoys sharing the experience with the other volunteers and seeing businesses and individuals come together to make sure those in need have a Merry Christmas.
“It’s a real community affair,” Gil de Lamadrid said.
Since Thanksgiving, toy drop off sites at Walgreens, Walmart, K-Mart, the fire station and the Douglas County Clerk’s Office have been accepting new, unwrapped toys for the program.
A Business After Five event to kick off the Toys for Tots program, sponsored by the Superior-Douglas County Chamber of Commerce and the Superior Jaycees, was scheduled to take place tonight at Fairlawn. Due to an expected snowstorm, it was rescheduled for Dec. 16.
“This is an opportunity for the chamber, the Jaycees and the business community as a whole to step forward and help out,” said Dave Minor, president and chief executive officer of the chamber. Nearly two-thirds of those who attend the December Business After Five each year bring a gift for Toys for Tots, he said.
Last year, six vehicles crammed with toys made the trip from the event to the Superior Fire Department, according to Chad Matushak, management vice president for the Jaycees.
About 700 families have signed up for holiday help through the Salvation Army of Superior, said Patti Hierl, the organization’s Christmas Program Coordinator. Christmas food baskets alone are expected to cost more than $30,000, said Maj. Rosemary Matson with the Salvation Army.
“When you buy that many turkeys it all adds up,” she said.
Although she is still going through a mountain of paperwork, Hierl estimated at least 1,000 children are in need of presents this holiday season. The younger children – newborns through age 12 – are sent to the Toys for Tots program. Presents for teens ages 13 and up are provided by the Salvation Army’s Teen Shop.
Somehow, each year, the need is met. Superior High School students are holding a live telethon Saturday to raise money for the food baskets. Residents drop change in the red Salvation Army kettles and gifts in the Toys for Tots bins. Volunteer bell ringers encourage them to give.
“What’s so wonderful is we all work together,” Matson said, in a communitywide partnership.
The year before Gil de Lamadrid and Luder took over the Toys for Tots program, they ran out of toys and had to send parents away empty-handed.
“It was heartbreaking,” Gil de Lamadrid said, and he vowed it would never happen again. It hasn’t. The donated toys always run out, but monetary gifts are used to purchase more.
Most people donate toys for younger children – wagons and Barbies that remind them of their own childhood. Gil de Lamadrid said there is also a need for toys for older children – CD players, curling irons, watches – and the youngest recipients in the newborn to age 3 category.
The Teen Shop also relies on donations. If you want to give but don’t know what to buy, monetary donations are always accepted. Hierl said the Salvation Army has a group of shoppers ready to stop by Walmart and find those perfect gifts. Both organizations need volunteers to help with distribution of toys and food.
The Toys for Tots program provides one large toy, a stocking stuffer, a coloring book or book to read and a stuffed animal for each child. Each family also receives a game. Some parents express their thanks; others just walk through.
“We’re not really expecting anything in return,” Gil de Lamadrid said. “We’re doing it for the kids.”
Even though their parents are having financial problems, he said, “We don’t want any children to go without.”