Whitewater Optimist Club members (from left) Espen and Lenora Heim along with Paul Waelchi organize gifts for distribution to area children during a “Toys 4 Kids” drive Dec. 14 at the downtown Whitewater Armory. See more photos in the Dec. 17 Register. (Tom Ganser photo)

With adjustments, group coordinates ‘Toys 4 Kids’ service project

By Tom Ganser


Members of the Whitewater Optimist Club pulled out all the stops recently as they wrapped, sorted, and assigned sleighs of Christmas gifts to Whitewater area children at two locations as part of a longtime tradition.

The members, who began the drive Dec. 8 in University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Anderson Library, followed up with a Dec. 14 occasion at the downtown Whitewater Armory.

According to Paul Waelchli, coordinator for the “Toys 4 Kids” service project, gifts were provided to 113 kids from 48 families.

First United Methodist Church, First English Lutheran Church, and St. Patrick Catholic Church all participated in collecting gifts for the children.

Employees at Provisur Technologies also took names and provided gifts.

This year because of COVID-19 restrictions, both First United Methodist Church and Provisur Technologies used online wish lists to distribute gifts online.

“It been an adjustment, but we’ve made it work,” Waelchli said.

“For over 25 years the Optimist Club has partnered with the Whitewater Food Pantry to make sure that the families that utilize the food pantry during the year have toys for their children each Christmas,” said Lanora Heim.

“Each year Optimist Club members and members of several area churches purchase gifts for specific local children. This year more than 400 total gifts were purchased.”

Heim reflected, “The joy of giving really is more powerful than receiving a gift.”


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