‘This year has been so unique’: Parents gather to pick gifts during unusual 2020 Coins for Kids program

ST. GEORGE — Times may be hard, but KONY Coins For Kids is still providing toys and goodies for local struggling families. A line of parents wrapped around the Washington City Walmart on Tuesday as families waited for their turn to peruse the aisles of gifts. 

Coins For Kids President Carl Lamar (left) and Chairman Brian Musso (right) check families in for shopping at the Washington City Walmart, Dec. 15, 2020 | Photo by Megan Webber, St. George News.

As previously reported by St. George News, instead of the annual tradition of volunteers buying, wrapping and delivering gifts as part of the Coins for Kids program, parents approved by the program this year are doing their own shopping for their children. Coins For Kids will pay for up to $110 worth of gifts per child. Through November, Coins For Kids raised $110,000 for the program. 

Despite the challenges of the year and the absence of volunteer shoppers and wrappers, Coins For Kids hit all its goals for its 31st season in a row, said Coins For Kids President Carl Lamar. 

“The important thing is we’ve hit our goal for being able to pay for the families,” Lamar said. “It’s up to the parents now. This is the first time and probably the only time that the parents will actually have an opportunity to shop for their kids and Coins For Kids will pay for it.” 

Coins For Kids Chairman Brian Musso said the number of families accepted into the program was also about on par compared to years past, despite the financial hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This year Coins For Kids will pay for gifts for 544 families and 1,632 children in Washington County. Over past years, the organization has supported anywhere between 1,200-2,500 kids per year, Lamar said. 

Members of the public could also “adopt a family” and do all the shopping for the family they were matched with. This year 191 families  and 657 kids were adopted, Lamar said, which is more than have been adopted in any year since 2007.

While Coins For Kids does wonders for underserved families and children, Lamar said it also prides itself on providing services for members of the community who want to do something good during the holidays. All the volunteers normally wrap the gifts all together before they deliver them, he said, adding that the annual event has felt like being in Santa’s workshop. Musso agreed that the volunteer aspect of the program will be missed this year. 

“This year has been so unique,” he said. “Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to service those who want to donate their time. That’s such a big part of the program – people donating their time to shop and wrap. That’s the most frustrating part right now.” 

Families and adopters can come on any of the three scheduled nights to shop, which will include Wednesday and Thursday, so there is no way to know how many parents will come on a given night. Walmart has stocked the shelves with extra toys, candy and clothes, but Lamar said items have been rapidly disappearing from the shelves, and he advised families to be prepared.

Coins For Kids would not be able to do what it does without the help of the community, he said.

“This is an incredible community. We couldn’t do this anywhere else in America, I don’t think. The community comes together, they see the need, they take care of the need, they respond. Every single year.”

For more information, visit Coins For Kids’ website or call their hotline at 435-634-6210.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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