The spirit of giving was in abundance during the Emporia Police Department Benefit Association’s Annual Toy Drive and showing of “Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch” at the Granada Theatre Sunday afternoon.
Emporia Police Detective and EPDBA President Dominick Vortherms said the annual drive benefits local foster care agencies St. Francis Community Services and TFI Family Services by providing gifts for children in care each year.
“I’d say our driving force to do this event is to give to children who are in need,” he said. “They are not going to have a traditional Christmas with lots of presents with family. We can actually give gifts to those kids in need; I think that’s the driving force. Everybody loves to do this event. It’s a good-feeling event.”
Each year, people are asked to bring a gift to donate to the drive. Attendees also had the chance to win a number of raffle items that had been donated, including tickets to the upcoming Phil Vassar and Lonestar concert at the Granada. All of the money raised from the raffles, Vortherms said, would also be donated between TFI and St. Francis.
“All of that money will get split between them, so that stuff will stay local here, which is huge,” he said. “They are always in need. This is a great way for us to be involved with them to help out.”
Vortherms said it was important to support the local agencies because the police department cares about its community.
“Lyon County is huge for us, Emporia is huge and that’s where we want to stay based,” he said. “There’s lots of kids in need here that we can help out.”
TFI Foster Care Worker Denise Schonhardt said the drive helps provide toys for the agency’s annual Christmas party.
“We do a breakfast with Santa or a party with Santa and there is a gift for every child at the party,” she said. “It’s great, and I think the kids love it [and] the families love it. I think that the kids really benefit from everything that we’re doing.”
Schonhardt said TFI also provides trees to families through a partnership with CAMSO.
“They’ve been really good to us, and they take a name and try to fill that kid’s wishes and we give those gifts to the foster parents to help with the kids,” she said.
St. Francis Community Services serves about 140 children between Lyon and Chase counties and the gifts collected by the drive are given to those children.
Foster Care Home Services Worker Lindsay Lyons said the drive helps foster families both financially and emotionally by relieving some of the stress of the holidays.
“This event helps the kids, and it also helps the foster families,” Lyons said.
It also helps the agency address the needs of some of the older children in its program.
“We have a lot of teenagers who don’t get a lot for Christmas,” Intake Worker Staci Trujillo said. “We try to focus more on their needs.”
Everyone representing the Emporia Police, Lyon County Emergency Communications Center and even the Granada Theatre was volunteering their time Sunday afternoon.
“No one is getting paid here — and this is straight volunteerism at it’s finest and everybody’s happy to do this,” Vortherms said. “We have a volunteer Santa, we have a volunteer Grinch. We have members working the door, we have the Granada staff, all volunteering time. Everybody sees the benefit to doing this. We’re really thankful to the Granada for letting us do this.”
Rebeca Hererra, interim director of the Granada, said the use of the theatre was a donation to the EPDBA as well. Granada staff created a kid-friendly drink — “The Grinch” — special for the event.
“We wanted to give back to the community, so we figured that it would be something really nice,” she said. “We were just really excited to do this for the community, to make a special drink for the kids and the chili and popcorn. It just makes this event a lot more special.”
And with more money than anticipated collected from raffles and a box overflowing with toys even before the movie began, even the Grinch himself found his heart growing three whole sizes.
For those who were unable to make it to Sunday’s event, a second EPDBA Toy Drive will be held from 6 - 9 p.m. Dec. 12 at the Emporia Main Street Incubator Space, 727 Commercial St.