by Jonathan Weaver
Children benefiting from the Kittanning Salvation Army toy distribution won’t know it, but many of their toys will be donated by many local teenage Santas.
Students at Ford City, Kittanning and West Shamokin High Schools have accepted a challenge set forth by the Ford City Lions to collect the most toys during the annual toy drive to benefit underprivileged children.
King Lion Brad Baillie said the toy collection, originally founded in the organization by Lion Joe Alese in the 1990’s, has been a tradition annually and 2014 was a perfect time for a massive collection – before Ford City and Kittanning combine to form Armstrong Junior/Senior High in August.
Alese’s grandchildren also attend West Shamokin.
“Before he passed away in 2007, when I joined the Lions Club, (Alese) thought it was important that every kid in Armstrong County had a toy for Christmas,” Baillie said. “I’m just following through with what he thought was right.
“Kids that are underprivileged need help this time of year.”
The idea was thought up in September.
Baillie’s niece, Maddie, (a sophomore) and nephew, Nate, (a freshman) are in the last school year of Ford City High and part of the school’s Leo Club as well. The Ford City Lions volunteers in conjunction with the Ford City Leo Club on several occasions throughout the school year.
Alese’s daughter, Carla, said the Lions primarily collected toys through local churches in the past, but is thankful for this year’s opportunity to help out more children. She hopes to collect more toys than ever before while uniting the students.
“This year, we are fortunate enough that we have all three high schools donating,” Carla said.
Carla – a 1983 Elderton High graduate – works as a school nurse at Shannock Valley and Dayton Elementary schools and collects toys from teachers in her schools annually that goes toward Armstrong County youth.
“I’m reaching out to different people I know locally, but I think with the Lions and the Leo Clubs, that’s what these kids do – community service. This is a great initiative for them – to serve, to donate toys and give back through a challenge,” Carla said.
“Hopefully next year we can ask the new school and keep this tradition going – just as my dad did all these years.”
Carla said donations will still be accepted by the Kittanning Salvation Army directly through Lieutenants Jason and Amber Imhoff.
“For people who are already involved in the Salvation Army, for somebody’s house that burns down, whatever the case may be, if somebody wants to take a toy to the school that’s fine, but if they just want to take it to the Salvation Army directly, they can do that too,” Carla said. “Anybody can donate.”
The school that donates the most toys before their annual Christmas party December 9 will be served a pizza party – but Baillie said it is tough to judge a true winner.
“It’s a win-win situation. The kids in Armstrong County are going to be the winners and the (students) collecting toys are going to be winners because they’re learning what serving the community means,” Baillie said. “It’s something every (student) should do.”
Kittanning Lion Ted Croyle, a member for 11 years with his wife (Delores – who also serves as the Kittanning High Leo Club Advisor), said Kittanning Lions will help the Kittanning Leo Club with the school challenge – either through their own member donations or donations from the community.
“The challenge is on,” Ted said.
Carla knows her parents will be proud, no matter who the winner.
“They would just be elated,” Alese said. “I’m sure they know we’re doing this.”