Members of the Vinton Breakfast Lions Club gathered at the Clearbrook Walmart early on the morning of November 15 for their annual Christmas shopping trip for children in need in the Vinton community.
They were met at the store by a Roanoke County school bus delivering about 20 students from Herman L. Horn and W.E. Cundiff Elementary Schools. The students were recommended by the guidance and administrative staff at each school. Guidance counselor Cheryl Clary and Parent Involvement Specialist Phyllis Satterfield accompanied the students from HLH. Counselor Melissa Dresser and librarian Sonya Franklin chaperoned the WEC students.
Bonsack Elementary is also part of the program, but they take the responsibility for shopping separately for their students who are participating.
Lion Galen Conner coordinates the program each year. Originally, the Lions did their shopping at the G.C. Murphy store in downtown Vinton, which is no longer in business. Then for several years, they worked with the K-Mart on Franklin Road, which closed in recent months. So, this year they coordinated the project with store manager Aaron Robins (who has family in Vinton) at the Clearbrook Walmart.
When the students, in kindergarten through fifth grade, disembarked from the bus at the front door, they were met by about 25 Lions Club members with carts and lists, ready to shop.
When parents gave permission for their children to participate, they were asked to fill out forms listing their child’s clothing sizes. The Lions help children select clothes “to outfit them from the skin out,” including jeans, shirts, shoes, socks, underwear, jackets, sweatshirts, gloves, and hats. They are also able to choose one toy. The Lions try to spend about $140 per child.
Funds are raised for this project through Lions events, such as the Fall Festival Pancake Breakfast and the spaghetti dinner on the evening of the Vinton Christmas Parade, scheduled this year on November 30.
Once the shopping was complete, one checkout lane at Walmart was opened for the Lions. Gift items were rung up and then bagged by Conner and Lion Joel Lytton. When that process was complete, the bags were loaded in a vehicle destined for Conner’s Olde Colony Realty office in Vinton. Volunteers will wrap the gifts and deliver them to the schools to be distributed in time for Christmas.
The Lions Club members often bring along members of their families on the shopping trip, and even members of the Vinton Luncheon Lions Club like Betty Reynolds.
The guidance counselors said that other community groups such as the Chamber of Commerce, nearby churches such as St. Timothy’s Lutheran, Campbell Presbyterian, and Vinton Baptist, and students on the William Byrd Middle School football team and WBHS basketball team also assist in providing happy holidays for families in need. Families qualify for all assistance through income and employment guidelines.
Lions Club International was founded in 1917 and is best known for championing the blind and visually impaired. The Vinton Breakfast Lions were chartered in 1985 and collect and sort used eyeglasses for distribution, but they also sponsor many other projects that help the local community. In recent years they worked to restore the Gladetown Cemetery in Vinton, and purchase smoke alarms to be distributed through the fire department, along with many other more traditional projects.
Hal Mabe serves as president of the Breakfast Lions this year.
The spaghetti dinner fundraiser on November 30 will be held at the Vinton VFW Hall on Lee Avenue in downtown Vinton. It begins at 4 p.m. and goes until 7 p.m. when the parade starts. Tickets are $6 in advance from Lions members or $7 at the door.