GLADSTONE - After years of working out of basements to conduct their annual Toys for Tots campaign, the members of Marine Corps League are basking in the ease and convenience of using a warehouse, thanks to the generosity of a Gladstone business.
VanAire Inc., of Gladstone, has offered the use of one of its unused warehouses to serve as a collection and distribution site for the League.
According to Bill LaMarch, coordinator for the local Toys for Tots campaign, the campaign was first organized approximately 25 years ago by League members Kathryn Payne, Esther Thompson, Richard Morrison, Larry St. Martin and Norm Nelson.
Members of the Marine Corps League turned out recently to fill an order from St. Vincent de Paul for a total of 446 Christmas toys from the League’s Toys for Tots program for needy children in the Delta County area. The volunteers are working out of a warehouse provided by VanAire Inc., located in the Industrial Park in Gladstone.
Marine Corps League volunteer Denise Gauthier, left, selects a toy from one of the spacious shelves in the VanAire warehouse. (Daily Press photo by Dorothy McKnight)
"At first, we ran things out of Kathrine's basement before we moved to the basement of the Knights of Columbus on Delta Avenue," said LaMarch. But working in a crowded basement was not the ideal place for the project at hand and after Christmas last year, the League put out a call for something more suitable. LaMarch attended a meeting for the League in Washington this summer and was informed that the national organization was ready to offer incentives to anyone willing to provide facilities to help the charitable organization.
"They can't offer any money but did promise a tax write-off to anyone willing to help," LaMarch.
It didn't take long for the word to get out. League member Dave Behling, who is the purchasing agent for VanAire, broached the need to VanAire co-owner, William VanderVusse, who notified his sister-in-law and company president, Beverly VanderVusse. She was more than willing to offer the warehouse for the local need. The company also secured all the legal documents required to make the warehouse available for use outside its organization.
"It's heated and they (VanAire) supply all the light and restrooms and also do all the snowblowing and security," LaMarch said. "They even put up the shelves for us."
More help was forthcoming when the Delta County Sheriff's Department arranged for inmates in the county jail to help on moving day.
"It's unbelievable," said LaMarch. "It was always so crowded in the K of C basement that we couldn't even do a decent inventory. In fact we couldn't even move! Now we can sort what we have and get an honest inventory."
"Bev was very happy that the building can be used rather than to sit vacant," said Behling. "It's a wonderful thing."
Although VanderVusse is away on a visit downstate, she sent an email to all the VanAire employees concerning the warehouse. It reads:
"We are very pleased to have the Toys for Tots organization using the Ag Solutions building for their collection and processing site this year. They have provided about 2,000 children with toys in each of the last two years. We have two Toys for Tots collection boxes in our break room, which I would love to have filled with toys for area children.
"I can only imagine how a child feels who knows they probably will receive few, if any toys, because their parent or parents have little or no money for Christmas. Locally, there are many families who cannot always afford food as evidenced by the news that both the local food banks are out of food.
"I encourage you to help by buying toys and getting the word out to your employees. We will be offering a one-time payroll deduction for anyone who would rather donate money than go pick up toys."
VanderVusse said the warehouse will also be available to the League again next year unless there is a need for it within the company.
Behling said he was extremely pleased with his company's willingness to help with the local toys campaign.
"That's what it means to work for a company like this," he said. "That's why it's so satisfying."
And, according to LaMarch, although the need is greater than ever, the League has always been able to help fill the need and has never had a shortage of toys in all its years of conducting the campaign.
"The organizations that give out toys send us a list of the toys they need," he said. This year alone, the League has collected toys for 2,035 children between the age of infancy to 17 years old.
"We usually give each child four toys, plus a stocking-stuffer if we can," LaMarch said. "Whenever we get an order, we usually try to throw in a couple of extra gifts just in case."
But the needs are not always easy to meet.
"Our most recent call was for gifts for 11-14-year-old boys and we're going to see what we can do to help out," LaMarch said.
But the work of the League when it comes to Christmas toys will not end on Dec. 26.
"This isn't something we do only at Christmas time," LaMarch said. "We do this all year long but people don't really notice until they see the boxes and cans put out in the local businesses."