VINTON–Early bird shoppers on Monday morning at the Bonsack Walmart who were hoping to escape the holiday rush, instead encountered a group of enthusiastic shoppers for the Vinton Needy Family Program. The organization is playing Santa to 40 local children this Christmas season.
The Vinton Needy Family Program originated with the Vinton Police Department many years ago, and is now loosely affiliated with Vinton’s First Aid Crew. The group is a nonprofit organization whose only purpose is to give food, clothing, and toys to Vinton’s children from ages birth to fourteen each year during the holiday season. They receive children’s names from the local elementary schools.
“It’s a lot of work in a few short weeks, but well worth the effort when you see the children,” said Doug Adams, leader of the program. Adams is a lifetime member of the First Aid Crew. The all volunteer group includes several members of the First Aid Crew, their families, and friends.
The Needy Family Program raises money by working at First Fridays at Five events in downtown Roanoke throughout the year. They also accept donations from individuals and other groups for their cause, and are always eager for more volunteers.
Fifteen to twenty shoppers usually make the 7:00 am trip to Walmart, each with a printed list for the children of one family. They spend around $100.00 per child on clothing and toys. Parents are asked to suggest items the children might want. Some give specific requests, but some are just grateful for any gift.
According to volunteer Donna Phillips, some parents say, “Any clothes, any toys, anything.”
Bicycles and winter coats are the most frequent requests. The Needy Family Program always makes sure to include a helmet for safety with a bicycle or tricycle. Each child receives both clothing and toys.
After so many years, the group is well organized. Lists are prepared ahead of time. Some members shop, while others take over one check-out lane and bag the gifts, labeling those for each individual child. One cashier handles all the transactions on a single register. Volunteers are then waiting to load the gifts in trucks to be moved to the First Aid Building for wrapping.
Santa and his helpers plan to deliver the gifts on December 19, after adding boxes of food from a local grocery store. Walmart and the grocery stores involved each year give financial assistance to the project.
The Vinton Needy Family Program then wraps up their season by hosting a party for residents of Clearview Manor on December 20.
By Debbie Adams