Santa Claus is coming to town! OK maybe Dallas Anderson isn’t the “official” guy in red, but this Greene County business owner—along with a crew of other volunteers—works to bring Christmas to those in Greene who might not otherwise have one.
This is the 16th year Anderson has hosted a Greene County Toy Lift site, this year on Dec. 6 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Walmart in Ruckersville. Toy Lift is hosted the first Friday of December to collect new unwrapped toys, bikes and books for children aged newborn through eighth grade. It was started in Charlottesville in 1989 by Tom Powell and satellite locations began in Fluvanna and Greene, among others, years later. Toy Lift serves those in the City of Charlottesville and the counties of Albemarle, Buckingham, Fluvanna, Greene, Nelson and Orange.
To get a jump on toy collecting, volunteers will be at Walmart this Saturday, Nov. 23 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to “Stuff the Bus.”
“We’re going to try to stuff the bus with as many toys as we can,” said Amy Hollis, one of the planners for the Toy Lift of Greene County. “The William Monroe High School PTSO is taking responsibility for the Stuff the Bus day. The whole goal is to try to fill that bus with toys and get a jump on Toy Lift. The gifts will all go in ‘Santa’s Shed’ in the Walmart parking lot.”
There are also boxes at each of the Greene County schools to collect items to become part of the Dec. 6 Toy Lift event.
Stuff the Bus will be a rain or shine event Saturday. Drop off collected items in the southwest corner of the Walmart parking lot in Ruckersville near the shed. The shed is currently open to accept gifts and is under 24-hour surveillance.
“What is donated in Greene County stays in Greene County,” Hollis said.
Additionally, there’s an Angel Tree at the high school, Hollis said, to help provide gifts for older children who aren’t covered by the annual Toy Lift event.
Erin Rocha at the high school said people can donate gift cards for businesses so the school can provide apparel for gifts.
“This is the high school’s way of supporting division-wide gift giving for our students and many people are part of making this happen,” Rocha said.
Gift cards can be donated to the office at the high school from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. or call the school at (434) 939-9004 to arrange a different time.
What started out a small collection site in front of Anderson’s Creative Press in Ruckersville has grown to a fun-filled all-day collection in the Walmart parking lot.
“It just keeps growing,” Anderson said. “The community has been so great, pulling people together as a unit.”
While volunteers will be there collecting early, Anderson said things really pick up in the afternoon. Athletes and other kids from William Monroe High School will be onsite encouraging people to donate. The rescue squad and fire houses all come by—and often volunteers ride Ruckersville’s ladder truck to encourage even more donations. The sheriff’s office is always well-represented and Rappahannock Electric Cooperative is there with trucks and to help light up the site when the sun goes down.
The schools get vouchers and collect for the kids, Anderson said.
Then Anderson likes to continue to collect toys for about a week afterward for those who aren’t able to sign up through the schools.
“To me, that’s not enough and that extra collection makes us unique. I’m not saying it makes us special, just different. I get so many names of needy people who have children and are out of work or something,” Anderson said. “And at the end I go ahead and call them and we pretend like we’re Santa and go deliver to these families. It’s a pretty cool thing.”
There are numerous businesses who help during the day, but especially Walmart, Anderson noted.
“Walmart’s been a real big supporter for us because they let us use the facility,” he said. “They let us shop through Walmart and they come out with their employees and carts full of toys.”
Stacy Roach’s Porky’s BBQ will be onhand to help keep the volunteers fed, as will Over the Top Chef. The team is asking for financial donations to help offset that. Contact Roach at email@example.com or (434) 566-1762 to donate.
Radio station WCHV will be there all day and local queens from the different pageants will be stopping by.
“With the school system involved last year we actually exceeded our goals,” Hollis said. She said that’s the group’s hope again this year.
Anderson said when his children were little he would take them to the Charlottesville Toy Lift event.
“It was always an inspiration to me. I thought I have a business here in the county I think I’m going to do this,” he said. “It just gives you a chance out of the year to really give back, ya know?”
It’s the response from the community that really drives that point home for Anderson.
Two years ago, Anderson recalls, a man came near the end of the day to ask what was needed the most.
“I said we have 120 bikes, but bikes are a big deal,” Anderson said. “He handed me his card and told me to charge 50 bikes on it. What a good heart.”
Last year a young boy named Devin, about 8 years old, asked Anderson if he collected items after Toy Lift and he said he did.
“He said ‘my dad is in Afghanistan, and he won’t be home this Christmas. So, when I get all my toys at Christmas, I want to donate them to you’,” Anderson recalled. “It almost made me cry. There are so many good people doing so much good but they stand back in the eaves and are not acknowledged.”
Different local acts will be performing at Toy Lift.
From 4-5 p.m. Greene County magician Wes Iseli will be performing. Tommy Wood will be perform and will have his CD for sale, as well, from 5-6 p.m. Roach’s band Rough Cut will perform from 6-7 p.m.
Volunteers are needed throughout the day, too. Contact Anderson at Creative Press at (434) 985-3493.
The 2019 Toy Lift will be in the parking lot at the Ruckersville Walmart from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Bring a new, unwrapped toy, book or bike to the shed to help make someone else’s Christmas merry and bright.