ALBEMARLE CO., Va. (WVIR) - Tom Powell, founder of the Charlottesville-Albemarle area’s 31st annual Toy Lift, looks over rows and rows of toys at the Toy Lift’s “Toy Land” location at Fashion Square Mall.
“It’s not Christmas in Charlottesville until the Toy Lift happens. It doesn’t matter if you have Thanksgiving Day parades, whatever, until the Toy Lift happens it’s not Christmas,” Powell said.
This year’s Toy Lift is unlike any other. Instead of the event being confined to one weekend, where hundreds of volunteers spend several hours collecting and boxing toys for children in the area, only 25 volunteers are allowed to help. With fewer volunteers, and the number of participating families jumping by the thousands this year due to the pandemic, Powell says they need more help than ever before.
“If you give us a dollar, we spend it as though it were two, thanks to our great partnerships with local businesses, Walmart, and everybody else,” Powell said.
For example, Carter Myers Automotive donates dozens of bicycles each year. Others donate financially or purchase items on the organization’s Amazon Wish List. Items listed there are picked specifically by children whose family request Toy Lift vouchers through their school. Toys are then packaged by family and distributed through the school.
Toy Lift Vice President Cindy Payne helps coordinate with schools to make sure every child not only receives just a toy, but one that they hand-pick themselves.
“One of the things that’s very important for us is, we want to make sure the kid not only gets something for Christmas, but that they get something that they’d actually be excited about for Christmas. You know, you don’t want to give a tomboy a baby doll,” Payne said.
Donations can be made at the Toy Land site by simply driving through or toys can be ordered online. Monetary donations will go toward the organization’s “Match the Elves” initiative, as an anonymous group pledged to match $15,000 if the organization raises that amount by Friday, December 4.
Although that Friday is also the last official day of the Toy Lift drop-off, Powell said volunteers will be on site until December 12 and will try to take any donations made before distribution.
“We don’t have a financial cutoff. We take care of everybody that needs help. We don’t want any child falling through the cracks,” Powell said.