By Andrea Culletto  

A woman approached a JCI La Crosse member with tears in her eyes. “Thank you,” she said. “My family can have a Christmas this year.” She had recently lost her job and was struggling to provide for her family of three. 

“She was very fearful of disappointing her two kids for Christmas until her friend told her about Toys for Tots,” said JCI La Crosse member Amanda Olbrys. “At first, she was hesitant because she didn’t want to take any handouts, but the friend explained that this is absolutely not a handout, we are here to help people who have fallen on hard times. The lady was so grateful that her kids could open gifts on Christmas morning.” 

 JCI La Crosse members believe no child should be left without presents on Christmas morning. “Hardships happen in life and we want to be able to bring a little joy to families,” Olbrys said. “This program is important to our organization because it really brings the entire community together like nothing else can. This project puts smiles on so many faces and nothing can compare to that feeling.”

Olbrys recalled one woman who walked up and handed them $10 during last year’s toy drive. “She had tears in her eyes and she said, ‘This is all I have but I want you guys to have it. I’ve been in this boat before and I’ve needed your help and now it’s time for me to give back.’ She immediately brought tears to my eyes too.” 

Each year, local school groups volunteer to help out. “The students love coming back each year and a few of them have even told us how they used to get toys from Toys for Tots when they were little, so they think it’s really cool that they can be on the giving end now,” Olbrys said.

The local community is essential in making Toys for Tots a success. “Without the donations from businesses and individuals, we could not put toys in the hands of children on Christmas Day,” Olbrys said. “This community is so incredibly generous, and you never cease to amaze us with how willing you are to help raise toys and money. Please continue to do this so we can keep Toys for Tots alive for years to come.”

For more information about JCI La Crosse and Toys for Tots, visit www.lacrossejaycees.org.