Toy Run, Shop With a Cop: Volunteers make sure local kids’ needs met

Lebanon, “The City That Friendliness  Built,” continues to hold decades-long traditions of giving during the Christmas season.

The Lebanon Police Department joined forces with Dala’s Blue Angels, Linn County Sheriff and sponsoring organizations to host Shop With a Cop Dec. 8, giving 69 children the opportunity to shop for Christmas gifts for their siblings and self.

Santa and Mrs. Claus were on-hand to say hello, Dutch Bros. provided free hot drinks, and Lowe’s employees helped with gift wrapping.

“I thought it was very helpful,” said Jesseca Britton, 15, who shopped for her four siblings. “It was fun to talk to someone as you’re shopping. I think it’s cool that they’re reaching out to the community.”

In addition to money raised throughout the year, sponsoring donors included Lowe’s, Rick Franklin, Lebanon Optimists, Altrusa of Albany, Gateway Imprints, Lebanon SALT, and Lebanon Rotary, as well as a grant from Walmart. Santiam Spokes Bicycle Club also donated money to the program for the purchase of bicycles for Christmas.

Dala Johnson, of the Lebanon Police Department, believes they’ve been doing Shop With a Cop for more than two decades now.

“It’s the best thing you can do all year long,” she said. “Just look at all the kids; that’s what it’s all about.”

The following morning, Dec. 9, the Road Maggots held their 11th annual toy run. Approximately 85 motorcycles and 25 classic cars and Volkswagens were gathered at Walgreens before parading through town and stopping at The River Center where they helped unload toys for the Lebanon Christmas Toy Program.

“We love them,” said Kim Stroup, volunteer for the toy program. “They’re such a blessing to our community, and they get a lot of toys for us.”

The church provided hot food and drinks while local Boy Scouts and volunteers assisted in collecting the donations.

On Dec. 10 and 11, families who applied to the Lebanon Christmas Toy Program were invited to pick out toys for their children at The River Center. 

Kyle Archer and Danika Childress spent some time going through the tables at the River Center to find gifts for their three kids. They were impressed with the options, and said this time of year is especially rough for people who have a hard time providing for their kids.

“It’s really cool that they put together something like this for their community because there’s a lot of people around here that struggle,” Archer said. “I think it’s amazing, honestly. It will help us feel better about our Christmas, because we are one of those people that are struggling right now.”

Childress had tears in her eyes as she tried to express her gratitude.

“I don’t know what we would’ve done without this blessing,” she said. “Being able to come in here knowing that we aren’t able to provide for the kids this year, and asking for help that we’ve never had to do. I think it’s amazing that there’s people out there that put forth the effort and the time, and even the thought. I’m overwhelmed.”

Dennis Stoneman, director of the program, believes the toy drive was started by Lebanon Chapel in the early 1990s and began as a program for members within the church. It eventually included families outside the church, giving pre-picked toys to them, and only recently began allowing Lebanon families to choose the toys themselves.

“We used to package it up for them and give them a bag, but it’s so cool to let them shop and pick out things that they think their kids will like,” Stroup explained.

She sees gratitude in the parents who receive from the program, and some walk out of the church with tears of thankfulness in their eyes.

“People come in for toys, but what we want to give out is hope,” Stoneman added.

Sponsors for the Lebanon Christmas Toy Program this year include Knothole Gas Station, Oxford House in Lebanon, and Our Saviors Lutheran Church Women’s Group.