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 This material may not be published or rewritten without written consent.