No small miracle: Coins for Kids

Tables covered with toys waiting to be wrapped, 2009. | Photo courtesy of Canyon Media

ST. GEORGE – For more than 20 years, KONY’s Coins for Kids has supplied clothing and toys to the children of families in need. It also gives the community the chance to make a gift of time and manpower.

On 99.9 KONY County, disk jockeys and commercials alert the listening public about the radio station’s annual holiday fundraiser: KONY’s Coins for Kids. Announcements traditionally start after Thanksgiving, and hundreds of red donation boxes begin to appear on the checkout counters of gas stations and businesses throughout the area.

Started in 1990 by KONY County employees who wanted to give a Christmas to children in need, $2,500 was raised that first year with 10 families benefitting from it. This year $125,000 is the goal with an estimated 800 families potentially impacted.

Carl Lamar, one of the personalities on the 99.9 KONY Morning Show, has been involved with Coins for Kids since the beginning. He also serves as the president of the board that oversees the charity and has seen the program go from a handful of radio employees to hundreds of volunteers.

“It can’t be done without hundreds of volunteers,” Lamar said. “It takes an entire community.”

Specifically, Lamar referred to the flurry of activity that will take place over a 72-hour period, staring at 5 p.m. on Dec. 14. After the donations have been collected, a mass of volunteers – up to 500 Lamar said – will invade the Bloomington Wal-Mart. Armed with shopping carts and clipboards with a list of items to be bought for a specific family, the volunteer shoppers get to work.

Chris Nelson, one-half on the duo who hosts Chris and LeRae in the Morning on 94.1 The Planet, has done live broadcasts at the volunteer events like the annual Wal-Mart raid. He said he was amazed by how many people showed up to lend a hand.

“This city really is a giving area,” Nelson said. “It’s incredible.”

LeRae Nelson, Chris Nelson’s co-host, had a similar opinion.

“It’s amazing,” LeRae Nelson said. “There’s nothing like it. It’s a sight to see.”

Once the shopping is done, the next phase of the operation commences on Dec. 15 at the Dixie Center – wrapping presents. Counting donations from private citizens, businesses, and the US Marine Corps Toys for Tots charity, Lamar estimated that up 8,500 items would need to be wrapped.

While between 500 and 600 volunteers have answered the call to wrap presents in the past, there have also been many more turned away because there was no room to receive them.

Annette Basso, a co-chair on the board, remarked there was a time when the board considered turning the Coins for Kids program into a less volunteer-intensive charity. That idea didn’t get very far.

“We made a conscious effort not to (change the program),” Basso said.

Basso added the Coins for Kids charity allowed people who may not be able to make a financial donation to donate in another way, by giving of their time.

After the toys are wrapped and sorted into Santa-bags marked with numbers that represent a particular family, the stage is set for the final phase – delivery.

On Dec. 16, another batch of volunteers will emerge. These volunteers, numbering around 75 or so according to Lamar, will be dressed as Santa Clause and see to the delivery of the Santa bags to approximately 300 different residences spread out over 70-80 routes. In some cases, these Santas are accompanied by Mrs. Santa and a handful of elves.

“It’s very, very cool to see,” said Jon Smith, the host of the Jon Smith Show on 95.9 KZHK, who has also done live broadcasts from Coins for Kids events in the past.

“People of all ages, backgrounds and income levels come out,” Smith said.

After two decades of involvement in Coins for Kids, Lamar said it had truly become a community program. He had even seen some families make a tradition out of volunteering year after year. Thanks to those families and everyone else who participates in one or all parts of the 72 hours of shopping, wrapping and delivery, Lamar credits them with how smooth the program runs.

It is an annual process that Lamar sees as “no small miracle.”

For more information on Coins for Kids and how to volunteer, visit Coinsforkids.net.

mkessler@stgnews.com

Copyright 2011 St. George News. This material may not be published or rewritten without written consent.

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1 Comment

  • Sandra December 6, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    I’d “Like” this charity more, if they didn’t have such bizarre requirements. If a parent approaches KONY or T4T’s they have to be able to prove residency in the home where the delivery will be made. If you have recently taken custody of your grandkids or nephews you might not be able to convince them that you’re legit if you take their application and have either the school district sign it or your pastor/bishop. If you do apply on their website and say your child’s school counselor or a grandparent also applies for that same child (in honest error) then your household is barred from receiving toys.

    Also, there’s no normalcy to the deliveries…they get their gifts on December 6th and have to open the bags in front of the delivery person. If the child is not there, if the parent insists on the gifts remaining bagged until Christmas (as any parent would like to do) then they lose participation….no dignity allowed. No gifts under the tree, no Santa on December 24th…but at least the volunteers can say they saw the poor kid and he/she is real. We don’t want legions of poor returning donated toys…God knows that’s what’s important here.

    I ran a Christmas charity fundraiser for a few years that picked up the families WC School District was desperate to help, and these groups disallowed for all the reasons listed above. The school district would call, we’d have gifts to these kids within hours…and shoes, and pajamas and in couple of cases; space heaters. That’s the spirit of Christmas…giving what you can/what they need and helping these parents when they have nothing of their own. My own money is going to stay in my neighborhood. There’s enough families that I know who missed the deadline…I’ve had them call me at home asking questions and there’s nothing I can do to help. Rules are rules it seems, even at Christmas! I don’t need to send $$ to a group who won’t help EVERY child.

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