Radford Elf Shelf demand expected to grow

Elf Shelf volunteers help with the set-up of the 2013 store before the two-day giveaway at Grove United Methodist Church: (front row, from left) Suzanne Morris, Ann Walker, Penny Sweet, Jean Umberger (second row) Sonya Nicely, Stewart Bell, Jim Nicely and Jim Morris. (File photo by Brian Perdue)

RADFORD — Last year, the Radford Elf Shelf served 234 families – including more than 500 children – and provided food vouchers to 52 families without children.

This year, organizers expect an increase in the amount of those who need holiday assistance.

For the past 21 years, the Radford Elf Shelf program has offered dignified help to children and families who would otherwise struggle to celebrate the holiday season. A “toy store” divided into gender and age appropriateness is set up at Grove United Methodist Church, and parents shop the store, using vouchers to acquire gifts with color-coded tabs (to denote value).

One grateful mother summed up the last year’s program.

“Last year I was in a bad time of my life. Had it not been for Elf Shelf my children would not have had a Christmas at all,” she said.

Fundraising for the 2014 Elf Shelf is under way, according to Ralph Stewart.

“Together with the Radford Noon Rotary Club, we are asking for donations to provide new toys, gifts and food vouchers for these special families,” said Stewart, a volunteer organizer.

Letters soliciting help will be mailed Oct. 23.

The program not only benefits children, who receive toys and gifts, but also adults, who receive food vouchers.

Beginning Nov. 1, new, unwrapped toys and monetary donations can be dropped off at several, yet-to-be-announced locations in the city. Volunteers also purchase toys and gifts through donated money.

Flyers are posted at participating agencies and throughout the city. Notices are also sent home with students about the ecumenical program.



Those seeking help must meet federal poverty guidelines to be eligible for food vouchers.

Families wishing to apply for the program may do so on four days at Grove United Methodist Church on 1020 Tyler Ave.:

  • 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 3
  • 3 to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 11
  • 3 to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 18
  • 2 to 5 p.m. Monday, Nov. 24

Families with children from newborn to 18 (must still be a high school student) may shop for gifts on Dec. 5 and 6 at the special “store.”



Volunteers wanting to help with the store, fundraising or shopping should contact Jean Umberger at 639-2137.

“With community support, we can all enjoy a happy holiday season,” Stewart said.


How to donate

Checks payable to “Radford Elf Shelf” may be mailed to: Radford Elf Shelf, P.O. Box 358, Radford, VA 24143. Donations to the nonprofit are tax deductible.


– Submitted by Bob Thomas