It has been 21 years since the Oakdale Lions Club first opened their hearts and wallets for the youth in need at Christmas time. On Wednesday, Dec. 12 the service club did what many might say they do best … continued the tradition of the Lions Club Annual Children’s Shopping Tour.
Thanks to the support of a generous community, a small army of Lions members, some 85 chaperones and the trusty Rummy Girls, a total of 200 Oakdale children were treated to a shopping spree at the local Big Kmart.
“They were phenomenal this year,” Rummy Girl and Chaperone Coordinator, Kim Leverett said of the local retailer. “They had a lot of people out helping people, snacks and punch for everyone.”
The retailer also offered an extra 20 percent off of each total purchase, a fact which allotted the shoppers even more for their shopping buck. Leverett shared a budget of $135 is given to each child age four and up and $75 for those three and under. All recipients of the shopping tour attend Oakdale schools and are elementary age or younger.
“I screen all the kids,” Leverett shared. “I want to make sure they all go to Oakdale schools and are elementary age or younger.”
Leverett also partners with Center for Human Services to ensure Angel Tree families are not duplicated in the Lions Program. The names of recipients for the Oakdale Lions event are acquired by way of application completed at R & T Power Equipment, owned by longtime Lion and Event Coordinator Greg Rivera.
“People start going to him in November,” Leverett said of interested recipients and the lottery program. She noted the club restricts the number of children to 200 as to not overtax the budget or the volunteers.
With that budget, the shoppers, with the help of their chaperones are welcome to select clothing items of their choosing. While many may be distracted by toys, the volunteers work diligently to keep their young ones focused on needs like clothing, shoes, socks, coats and under garments.
Following their time shopping at Kmart Wednesday night, they were taken to Sierra View Elementary for a pizza party and visit with Santa. Much to the surprise of many of the children, 200 gifts donated from a toy drive by The People’s Remedy in Oakdale and wrapped by the Rummy Girls were given to them at the party, capping off the fun evening.
“The kids make it worth it every year,” Leverett said of the hours of work put in prior to the night’s event. “Just to see their faces and how grateful so many of them are. We could not do this without the community support and the volunteers.”
“Thanks again to the community for helping the Oakdale Lions Club with this great program,” Rivera concluded.