Locals work to make sure there are plenty of toys this Christmas

Jess James and Gil Madison have a lot in common. They’re both physicians. They’re both retired. They’ve both been around Mesa County for … well, let’s just say a long time. They’ve both been acquainted with me for … well, let’s just say a long time again.

More to the point: They’re both genuinely good guys, gentlemen who have given much to this community for many years. And neither of them can stand the thought of a kid without toys at Christmas.

So when the local Toys for Tots chapter lost its charter this year, the two put their heads together to make sure the bureaucratic snafu that caused Toys for Tots to abandon Mesa County in no way meant Mesa County kids would suffer.

It just so happens the two also serve on the advisory board for the Salvation Army. Enter Capt. Dan Wilson and his wife, Terrie, the ranking soldiers at the local Salvation Army. They, too, are of like mind about toys, kids and Christmas. They all go together and no kid should be left toy-less.

Why, wondered Madison and James, couldn’t the Salvation Army fill the void left by the departure of Toys for Tots? The answer, in a few words, is it can. And it will.

The Salvation Army, after all, has had its own Christmas toy program for decades. The Salvation Army had worked with Toys for Tots before. It also has worked with the local motorcyclists who have a toy ride every year, the “giving trees” at various retail outlets and other organizations that are in the toy-collecting business.

In fact, all one really needs to do is to let “Captain Dan,” as he prefers to be called, know that someone in this town needs something, whether it be toys, food, social services or help kicking an alcohol problem, and he’ll move heaven and earth and the Salvation Army bureaucracy to see that the need is filled.

Never mind that the slipping economy has resulted in donations to the local Salvation Army to fall $200,000 this year, and the same sagging economy has resulted in more people in need of the services of the Salvation Army. Those are problems, yes. But Capt. Dan’s mission is simple in concept: Fill the needs, regardless of the complexity of the problem.

Let’s just say he’s dedicated.

So this year the Salvation Army is redoubling its efforts to collect toys at Christmas. We’re all used to seeing the Salvation Army bell-ringers, standing in the cold holiday season next to their red kettles. This year, next to a lot of the red kettles will be barrels for toy collection. There will also be many more “giving trees” at area retailers this year. And the local Lions Clubs have pledged to help the Salvation Army collect toys.

There are lots of ways you can help the Salvation Army, which is just another way of saying there are lots of ways you can help your neighbors who might need a hand this year.

If you happen to have been caught in the vortex of the slumping economy and you’re one of those who needs help this year, the Salvation Army is taking applications for assistance. You can apply at the Salvation Army at 1235 N. Fourth St. between 9 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. and between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Thursday and between 9 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Friday of this week, and again from Nov. 29 through Dec. 10. Picture identification is required for all adults and some form of ID is required for all children. You’ll also need verification of address (a utility bill or lease, for example) and income information.

Last year, 1,600 families were beneficiaries of Salvation Army food baskets and toys for Christmas. Capt. Dan thinks that number will be 2,500 this year. That may seem to be a daunting number, but Jess James, Gil Madison and Capt. Dan aren’t about to let the fact that there is no Toys for Tots in Mesa County mean there are no toys for tots in Mesa County. Not this year or any year.

Denny Herzog is the retired executive editor of The Daily Sentinel. E-mail him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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