ST. GEORGE — Hundreds of volunteers descended on the Dixie Center St. George to begin wrapping more than 10,000 gifts that will be loaded up and delivered to needy children throughout Washington County.
Many volunteers took time off work and away from their families to support the effort, ensuring that all presents were wrapped and staged for delivery.
There were just as many reasons for donating to the cause as there were people.
“I’m here because I want to do something for somebody else during Christmastime besides myself,” volunteer Alex Rowley, aka “Hashtag Fabulous,” said.
Carrying on the eight-year tradition after her husband passed was one important factor for volunteer MaryAnn Cousineau. The other: “My kids are all grown up and I just get a good feeling about wrapping for others,” she said.
More than 100 tables were set up and ready for hundreds of volunteers to wrap the gifts. Volunteers at each table wrapped for one family at a time and once completed, the gifts are placed in a numbered bag to be delivered by a volunteer Santa to the family on Friday.
The toys and other gift items being wrapped originate from fundraising efforts by Kony Coins for Kids directed by Carl Lamar and the Toys for Tots Foundation run by retired Marine Gy. Sgt. Rick Massey. A shopping trip to the Bloomington Wal-Mart on Wednesday evening by volunteer shoppers added toys and other items for more than 1,200 children to a room already laden with gifts.
Through fundraising efforts and events, Toys for Tots donated 5,400 toys to be staged and wrapped on Thursday morning as well, Coins for Kids Chairman Brian Musso said. Both programs have worked very closely together for the last 10 years or so.
Ten years ago, retired Marine Gy. Sgt. Rick Massey helped Kony Coins for Kids with their program until he and Musso discovered donations given to the Toys for Tots Foundation in Washington County were being shipped to families outside of Southern Utah.
At that point, Massey became the Coordinator for the local chapter of the Toys for Tots Foundation, and collaboration and joint fundraising efforts continued from there.
“Toys for Tots is really, really good at collecting toys — thousands and thousands of them,” Musso said. “They just don’t have quite the same distribution system, which is why we share,” he said.
The Kony Coins for Kids program has existed for 26 years and this is the 17th year in the program for Musso.
“We do our best to help as many people as we possibly can here in the community,” he said.
This was made evident by the sheer volume of toys and other gifts being wrapped to bring Christmas to Washington County kids who may otherwise have gone without this year.
Toy deliveries will begin Friday at 4 p.m.
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