Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Holiday Party Volunteers Prepare for Lines of Kids; 2 of Region's Biggest Events Stir Christmas Excitement This Weekend

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Holiday Party Volunteers Prepare for Lines of Kids; 2 of Region's Biggest Events Stir Christmas Excitement This Weekend

Article excerpt

Byline: JEFF BRUMLEY, The Times-Union

Rock band guitarist and part-time bicycle assembler Bob Eichermuller was really cranking out the bikes Wednesday morning at Jacksonville's Prime Osborn Convention Center.

"I'll personally do about 100 bikes here today," the 48-year-old Jacksonville resident said.

A pretty bold prediction but one based on experience for Eichermuller, who works for a company that assembles bicycles for retailers when he isn't strumming for the Jacksonville band Go Ask Alice. He and a dozen other professional bike-builders with NASCO, which paid the workers but donated their time to the party, were putting together 500 Huffy bikes for distribution during Saturday's Children's Christmas Party of Jacksonville.

"We'll be able to do them all in one day," Eichermuller said about the $25,000 in bikes purchased with donations from Mayo Clinic employees.

It's precisely the kind of effort party organizer Joan Lamer was getting from 50 or 60 corporate volunteers and U.S. Marines this week in preparation for the annual party that will distribute $200,000 in toys to an expected 10,000 Jacksonville-area children.

The Jacksonville event and the John P. Hall Children's Christmas Party in Clay County, also Saturday, are two of the larger events held locally to give underprivileged children a reason to smile this Christmas, organizers said.

Both parties are much anticipated. Lamer predicted 25,000 to 30,000 people, including 10,000 children, will file through the Prime Osborn where each child will be able to select three age-appropriate gifts. The bikes will be handed out randomly through a lottery.

"We have people lining up Friday night, sleeping in sleeping bags," Lamer said. "They get very creative out there."

By the time the doors open at 9 a.m., she said, "the line is so deep, it's wrapped around to the [Acosta] bridge."

Security is donated by police and Marines, whose Toys for Tots program provides some of the toys, Lamer said. She said up to 500 volunteers will staff the party Saturday.

Virginia Hall, president of the John P. Hall Sr. Children's Charity, said 2,000 children will receive a bag of new toys and be able to select one used toy at the Clay County Fairgrounds Saturday.

At least $40,000 in new toys were purchased for the party and are supplemented by donated toys, Hall said. Last year, about 420 new and used bicycles were distributed, and Hall said she expects a similar number to be randomly given away this year.

She said about 100 volunteers will work the party, not counting the businesses and clubs that hold toy drives.

"And a number of schools have done tremendous toy drives for us," Hall added.

Hall said the feedback she gets every year from volunteers and needy families makes all the hard work behind the parties worthwhile. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.