Wimpy's Fund brought Christmas cheer to 350 children
On Saturday, Dec. 23, 2023, volunteers made special deliveries to homes in Rockton, Roscoe, Shirland, South Beloit and Harrison.
In the week prior to delivery of food, toys, and clothing, numerous volunteers spent many hours at Apex General Contracting in South Beloit.
In one room, members of the South Beloit Lions Club lovingly wrapped presents. They were sorted in a separate room, with wishes filled from a corresponding list.
Another room was filled with food, ready to fill baskets, and bags of canned goods, all assembled by volunteers. All of the food is purchased or donated by the Rockton Lions Club and community members.
Volunteers load baskets with ham, bread, milk, eggs, margarine, a five pound bag of potatoes, hot chocolate, syrup and desserts. Families also receive toilet paper, Kleenex, toothpaste and new toothbrushes.
This year, a record high of 134 families were served through acts of caring. Around 350 children received this dose of Christmas cheer. Of these, 18 families had four or more children in them.
Local school districts referred and verified all names of families who could use a lift during the season, to assure a need for those receiving these gifts.
Parents provide lists that the gifts are based off. “Every year we provide enough food to last a family at least a month or more, from Christmas break and into the time students are back in school,” said Wimpy's Fund delivery chair Tami Verstraete.
Money is raised from the annual Wimpy’s Fund Auction which was held online and in person this year, and from various partnerships. This is one of the resources that helps to provide gifts, food and more.
Rockton and Roscoe schools are key supporters of Wimpy's Fund.
Businesses display tags for community members to adopt a family. Employees in those businesses lend a helping hand by adopting a family or through donations of gifts for families. Extra donations come in from churches and schools, with some also adopting a family.
Several organizations hold toy drives and donate those toys to Wimpy's Fund.
Others have "Giving Trees" where items are collected and donated.
First National Bank and Trust, formerly Macktown State Bank, received financial donations
Wimpy’s Fund began in memory of former Rockton Police chief Everett Vaughn who served as chief from 1977-1981. He was given the nickname Wimpy based on the cartoon character in Popeye who walked the streets, carried a sandwich board, and ate lots of hamburgers.
As he was helping children cross the street, Vaughn would notice that some of the children didn’t have gloves, hats or socks. So he went one step further and took the mothers of those families shopping to buy clothing, groceries and one gift for each child in need.
His wife Betty provided Christmas dinner for the families. Over time they added toys into the mix.
Vaughn passed away in 1997 and his friend Jack Stewart decided to carry on his legacy. Other Lions Club members have teamed up to keep this Christmastime tradition alive.
A group of core volunteers put the auction together led by co-chairs Terrie Garlow and Carol Wright. They gather donations and organize both the silent and live auction event. Many other Lions members lend a hand by donating or helping during the auction.
Many hours go into preparing for the auction. Volunteers work for at least a month, with a weekly meeting to plan the next steps, making phone calls to organize and gather donated items.
“Volunteers for the delivery day are too many to count. This is a huge group of Lions members, people in the community, businesses, school districts and local churches,” Garlow said.
Every year the Rockton Lions Club hosts Breakfast with Santa at the Rockton Christmas Walk. Funds from the pancake breakfast also go toward Wimpy's Fund. Rockton Lion Jeff Schreck serves as the chair of the breakfast. “We had a great turnout this year and thank the community for their continued support,” Schreck said.
In the future, Wimpy's Fund hope to increase the giving of gift cards through a drive or in other ways to fill a teenager's wish list. This year, one company donated gift cards but more donations will gladly be accepted in the future. “There is so much support given to the little kids but other children also need to have that support,” Garlow said.
The overall process to make Wimpy's Fund come to life each year starts in October. Rockton Lions Club members and community volunteers spend a total of well over 200 hours of time each year. This covers paperwork, communications with the schools, and man hours.
The generosity that has been shown through support of this mission has allowed the Rockton Lions Club to assure that each child and their family has enough to make their Christmas one to remember.
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