Getting the ‘sleigh’ loaded

Junior Service League prepares for Christmas -- this year and next

Alcoa, Inc., used its safety promotion money to help less fortunate children in the community recently when the company donated $6,500 to the Toys for Blount County effort coordinated by Maryville’s Junior Service League.

Toys for Blount County chair Melissa Stuart said the employees went shopping on Dec. 10 at the Alcoa Wal-Mart to buy toys for children who will be helped to have a bright Christmas by the JSL Toys for Blount County program.

“They (Alcoa, Inc., employees) wanted us to come and help them shop for toys. They didn’t want to just give us money because they like to see what their money is going toward and like to pick out items,” said Stuart. “And we all have a big time doing it. We help them get organized for buying the toys. This year they donated $6,500 toward Toys for Blount County and the Alcoa Wal-Mart gave us an additional $500 to make it an even $7,000. They’re all awesome.”

Stuart said other companies and organizations have also helped raise money and provide toys for the program. “Denso donated lots of toys and made three separate deliveries. Cornerstone of Recovery was a big supporter and continues to collect. Wal-Mart Alcoa obviously does a lot, and Wal-Mart Maryville does a match,” she said.

Stuart said the retired members of Local 309 United Steel Workers of America also made a donation to Toys for Blount County.

“There’s such a big outpouring of different donations, and people also their time,” she said. “Personal Computer Services, Inc., also provided boxes for packing and sent employees to help us.”

Community organizations like the Royal Oaks home-owners association also donated toys and money to Toys for Blount County. “Royal Oaks is a big community with 400-plus homes and they take a lot of pride in their home owners association. They do a lot and like to have fun,” Stuart said.

Packing Day is always a day of excitement and hard work. This year the group set aside Dec. 13 and 14 at the National Guard Armory on West Lamar Alexander Parkway to fill orders, wish lists and get it all in boxes to be delivered to the county’s underprivileged children.

The armory was opened on Sunday for the JSL members to organize and prepare and, on Monday, the packing began.

The major bulk of toys are purchased in the summer and any additional funds can be used to supplement what has already been bought.

“We raise funds all year long and try to buy five nice toys for each child and with the Extra Toy Program, through additional donations, we add on to what we have done, so each child could possibly end up with eight toys each,” said Stuart.

Stuart said Monday’s inclement weather delayed packing day until about noon. “Once we got on schedule at lunch and got our members to packing, we were almost halfway when we stopped,” she said. “We came back Tuesday morning and were finished packing by 1 p.m.”

Stuart said 1,400 children are provided with Christmas presents this year through the JSL Toys for Blount County program.

“When you sit there and look on Monday, you have all these toys unpacked and each table set up. Each person has a list, and they shop from what we have for the child by age group. In 24 hours, every toy is packed and marked for delivery, and those toys are going to the homes on Sunday morning. That is so exciting.”

With Christmas 2010 packed and ready, the Junior Service League is already turning attention to next year. Their annual “Breakfast with Santa” event is set for 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., Saturday, Dec. 18. It is one of the fundraisers for the Toys for Blount County program.

“For anyone who has been to any of our breakfast events, they’re magical. We want to create an awesome event so they feel they’re walking into Santa’s workshop, and they get to see Santa and Mrs. Claus and get their picture made.”

Tickets are still available for $15 each and are available from any JSL member as well as at Bristol and Bragg, Pokey’s and Sports and Dandy Lions.

Stuart thanked her Toys for Blount County co-chairs Morgan Hodson and Jamey Hearon for their efforts.

Alcoa Inc., Tennessee Operations earned the money for their donation through a special in-plant promotion designed to increase the number of pre-job safety reviews and pre-job walkabouts.

Pre-job safety reviews and walkabouts help Tennessee Operations employees remain safe and prevent injuries on a daily basis.

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