VINTON–Each year the Vinton Breakfast Lions Club takes several Vinton area students on a Christmas shopping trip. Originally they shopped at the G. C. Murphy store in downtown Vinton which is no longer in business. For the past few years, they have been shopping at K-Mart on Franklin Road in Roanoke. Lion Galen Conner heads up the project each year.
Guidance counselors or committees from Herman L. Horn and W. E. Cundiff Elementary schools in Vinton recommend students whose families need some help in providing gifts for the holidays. The Lions spend around $120-$130 per child buying clothing items which will “outfit them from the skin out,” and one toy. Their families are asked to supply the correct sizes for jeans, shirts, shoes, socks, underwear, jackets, sweatshirts, gloves, and hats.
Each November a Roanoke County school bus arrives at the store around 9 a.m. with students from both schools, usually escorted by the guidance counselors and other school personnel. This year Cheryl Clary, the guidance counselor from Herman L. Horn, teacher Kenya Huffman who is also an administrative intern, and principal Peggy Stovall accompanied the group from HLH. Guidance counselor Melissa Dresser supervised the children from WEC.
The 20 students were greeted at the door by about 25 members of the Breakfast Lions Club, their spouses, children, and friends. Each child is accompanied by one adult or a couple as the browse through the racks for their favorites, generally trying on outerwear to be sure of the fit.
Vanessa Skidmore, whose father Joel Litton is the president of the Breakfast Lions, said that her parents have been involved with this project since she was a child. After this year’s shopping was completed, she said that she finds the project very rewarding and very touching. She commented that often people don’t realize how difficult it can be for families who would need to make expensive trips to the laundromat to keep their children outfitted in clean clothes each day.
Several of the adults commented on the children continuing to thank them throughout the shopping trip for the gifts.
Once the shopping was complete, one check-out lane was opened for the Lions. Gift items were bagged by student name and loaded into a car destined for Conner’s Olde Colony Realty office in Vinton. Volunteers will wrap them for Christmas and take them to the schools to be distributed.
Lions Club International was founded in 1917 and is best known for championing the blind and visually impaired. However, the Breakfast Lions, chartered in 1985, take on many other projects where they see the needs in the community. The Breakfast Lions have worked to restore the historic Gladetown Cemetery in Vinton and purchased smoke alarms to be distributed to the community through the Fire Department in addition to more traditional projects.
One way the club funds the shopping trip and their many other projects is through the annual Pancake Breakfast at Vinton’s Fall Festival and the Spaghetti Dinner always held on the afternoon and evening of the Vinton Christmas Parade, coming up this year on December 1. The meals are prepared and served at the VFW Hall on Lee Avenue in downtown Vinton. Tickets for the Spaghetti Dinner are $6 in advance this year and $7 at the door.