Virtual sleighloads of volunteers shop, wrap, deliver Christmas gifts to needy families; STGnews Videocast, photo gallery

The Hernandez family pose for a picture with Santa Claus who brought them presents as part of the KONY Coins for Kids and USMC Toys for Tots program, St. George, Utah, Dec. 19, 2014 | Photo by Holly Coombs, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — ‘Twas the week before Christmas, when all through the county Santa Claus was delivering gifts to those in need of some care. The collecting of names, a shopping spree, and a day of gift wrapping led to placing gifts under needy families’ Christmas trees.

KONY Coins for Kids, a nonprofit organization that brings Christmas gifts to select families in the community, started 25 years ago. Monetary donations are collected and the organization’s volunteers collect names of needy families, shop for items including toys and clothing before delivering them as wrapped presents.

When Kony Coins for Kids started it was very small, KONY Coins for Kids Chairman Brian Musso said. By 2009, at the height of the recession, the organization hit its peak serving more than 900 families, including more than 2,600 children, in Washington County.

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Videocast by Holly Coombs, St. George News

Since that year the economy has started to recover, bringing the donation numbers lower for the Kony Coins for Kids effort, Musso said.

In addition to the families receiving the gifts wrapped at the Dixie Center this year, an additional 100 families were specially adopted by people wanting to participate in the charitable giving who shopped and wrapped for those families themselves, Tia Clay, one of the Coins for Kids organizers said.

With the “adopted” families, there were about 587 families total, including more than 1,569 children, served this year, Clay said.

“This year was almost exactly the same as last year,” Musso said, “so hopefully we’ve stabilized and things are going better for individuals and individual families. Its a great opportunity for us to service all these families.”

Shopping Spree

On an overcast, chilly Wednesday evening, many volunteers crowded into the Bloomington Wal-Mart to participate in the shopping phase of the Kony Coins for Kids program. The line of volunteers, diverse from Boy Scout troops, other groups and families, stretched  from the western entrance of the store and out into the parking lot.

Volunteers were placed in teams to shop for lists of specific toys and clothes requested for the families. Each child from the needy  families was allotted $75 to spend unless the family specified no toys in which case each child was allotted $45 for clothes.

City of St. George Mayor Jon Pike and Washington County Sheriff Cory Pulsipher attended the event along with members of the Washington County Sheriff’s Explorer program and the U.S. Marine Corps with its Toys for Tots program that contributes to the effort.

All purchases were loaded and moved to the Dixie Center St. George for wrapping the following day.

Gift Wrapping

On Thursday morning, hundreds of volunteers young and old gathered to wrap the purchased items from Wednesday’s shopping spree and toys which were collected from the team effort with the Toys for Tots Foundation.

St. George Resident Jill Davenport, who has volunteered to wrap presents for almost 20 years, said every year the room gets so full of volunteers that people are sitting on the floor to wrap. She said she takes off work every year and always brings her kids and grandkids to help.

“It’s a great way to serve the community, and I like being here with all (the volunteers) too,” Davenport said.

Delivering Presents

With loads of gifts, multiple volunteers dressed up as Santa Claus and delivered the gifts to the families on Friday. Rick Nelson and Dave Macfarlane have teamed up for 23 years to deliver presents.

Macfarlane said he knows Carl Lamar, founder of Kony Coins for Kids, and became interested in volunteering.

“It’s so rewarding to see the final result of all that we put into this project,” he said. “We get to see so many families that have nothing receive so much to have a real Christmas.”

Macfarlane adopted a family, which he shopped for and delivered presents to. He said going through the whole process and seeing who he helped was his favorite part of helping this year.

St. George News Reporter Brett Barrett contributed to this report.

Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery. 

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  • IN THE GAME December 20, 2014 at 8:51 pm

    Ma’am, can you move your Escalade so we can back this truck load of gifts up to your door?

  • Justme..... December 21, 2014 at 4:57 am

    ‘Virtual’ is defined as something perceived but not real; existing only in the mind. These volunteers were real; virtually.

    It seems like a lame point to and I mean no disrespect but, volunteer or not, you are a journalist and should know better.

    • Joyce Kuzmanic December 21, 2014 at 8:45 am

      I understand, “justme,” but the sleigh is what was “virtual” not the volunteers. Think of all the classic images of Santa’s sleigh overflowing with presents – in this case, it was overflowing with volunteers.

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