By Kathleen Scruggs
When youngsters show up at Top of the Plaza for breakfast Saturday morning, Dec. 6, they’ll be looking forward to more than just a good breakfast. They’ll be watching for Santa Claus.
The Junior Service League of Maryville will be hosting Breakfast with Santa at Top of the Plaza, located on the top floor of the Preservation Plaza downtown. There are two seatings for the breakfast -- 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. The breakfast buffet will include ham, bacon, eggs, sausage, pancakes, orange juice and coffee or tea. There will also be holiday trinkets on sale for the children, JSL cookbooks and pictures with Santa and Mrs. Claus for $5.
When breakfast is over, however, the true spirit of the event lingers on. Funds raised at Breakfast With Santa will go to the JSL’s Toys for Blount County.
The Junior Service League provides Christmas each year for children in Blount County who are underprivileged through their Toys for Blount County fund raisers. “These children attend our local schools, go to our churches, and most importantly, are an integral part of our community,” says Becky Rials, who co-chairs the Major Fundraising Committee with Elizabeth Dugger and Christy Alexander.
Toys for Blount County is one of the Junior Service League’s biggest projects and members start early in the year planning for it. “The committee starts early, going out and purchasing and collecting gifts for the children,” Rials says. “This year we’re also doing a neighborhood toy drive where each member is to ask their neighbors if they want to contribute new toys so we can provide more gifts.”
Rials says individuals who need the assistance of Toys for Blount County normally contact United Way in mid-October as part of the Christmas clearing house. Parents or grandparents (legal guardians) call in and signup.
Amanda Stone and Laura Marsh are the chairpersons for Toys for Blount County.
Amanda Stone says from Oct. 20 to Oct. 24 Junior Service League members manned a phone bank at United Way on East Broadway Avenue to field calls from parents and legal guardians seeking help for Christmas. “We are the first agency that takes calls because we serve the largest number of children in the county. We’re serving not quite 1,400 children this year, about the same as last year,” Stone says.
The parents or legal guardians provide their Social Security numbers and the numbers of the children for whom they are seeking assistance. Stone says that after the clearing house is completed, United Way helps them log in all the families’ names. Once they’re logged into the system, it helps determine which, if any, of the families are trying to obtain help from multiple agencies. “It also helps people who didn’t get on our list get on another list because we are not able to serve everyone,” Stone says.
Stone said it costs about $40,000 a year to provide toys, books and personal care products to the children. “We serve children from newborn to age 14. Everyone gets a toy, and, this year, we had additional money in donations so we were able to provide books for the children, which we consider an important addition to the gifts.”
“It’s a long week for us. Our members volunteer their time during that week to do shifts. AT&T and Target donated the phones,” Stone says.
Now children who don’t need Toys for Blount County can help those who do by buying tickets and attending the breakfast. Rials says Christmas is a magical time of year for many children. “By attending this first breakfast, you can make the magic happen for more Blount County children,” Rials says.
Tickets are available at Dandy Lions, Pokey’s, Blount Today and Bristol and Bragg. For more information, call 865-984-3850.