Bittersweet Christmas at NEAR Food Shelf
Toys are everywhere, piled high on tables in a gym at the Crystal Community Center. Hundreds of them. Volunteers race back and forth, carting more toys from idling trucks. And watching over it all is Jan Monroe.
Jan has been with the NEAR Food Shelf for decades, and this is her special project. Each Christmas NEAR distributes Christmas toys to area children in need, and it’s not just store-bought toys. Mel Hartman’s group TLC Toys donated more than 200 hand-made toys to the event, just like they have been doing for decades. These wooden works of art are prized by volunteers and recipients alike.
“They are works of art,” says Jan. “They’re beautiful!”
But that could all end. Mel’s health means he won’t be able to run TLC Toys anymore, and if someone doesn’t take over, this will be the last year for the wooden toys. Jan remains hopeful that someone will take over. After all, she found someone to take over for her.
Jan, too, is hanging up her hat – she says she’s getting too old to handle the intense work of running the Christmas program. Her very-large shoes will be filled by Dave and Gina Kiser. And yes, that’s the same Dave Kiser who helps keep CCX Media running.
When the Kisers take over the Christmas program next year, they’ll find a flourishing organization with dozens of volunteers and a well-oiled toy collection network. And maybe, if things work out just right, they’ll find more wooden toys to put under the tree.