â€œIt has really progressed,â€ said Linda Oiler, for whom this Christmas will be her 13th with the EMS and its Toys for Tots program.
â€œEverybody gets at least one new toy [now],â€ Oiler said, â€œbut it didnâ€™t start out like that.â€
Though she hasnâ€™t been with the program since its beginning, Oiler can remember when gifts for girls lined one wall of the ambulance depot and gifts for boys lined another.
She can remember the days when parts had to be collected from three donated bikes to create one functional bike.
Now she can walk in Dr. William Andersonâ€™s old office at the Medical Arts Building and see rooms full of toys waiting to be given to the countyâ€™s less fortunate children.
One room, with toys for boys, is filled with automobiles and Spider Man memorabilia. There is an almost pastel glow in the girlsâ€™ room, filled with dolls and princesses.
There is another room for unisex gifts â€” board games and the like, and yet another room filled with gifts for babies.
More than ever, many of these gifts are new. There are still some used gifts, however, which are cleaned and inspected to make sure all the parts are still there.
â€œWe donâ€™t give away any puzzles that we donâ€™t put together first,â€ Oiler said.
The gifts used to be delivered by EMS employees and volunteers, but no longer â€” a testament to how much the program has grown and proof of the number of needy in Trigg County.
â€œWeâ€™d be delivering until the day after Christmas,â€ Oiler said.
As of Dec. 7, 37 families had signed up for the program. Oiler said she expects to brighten this Christmas for more than 250 children.
â€œWe donâ€™t turn anybody away,â€ she said.
Oiler asked that any other family wishing to register should do so at the ambulance depot behind Trigg County Hospital by Saturday, Dec. 17.
Similarly, they donâ€™t turn away any donations, monetary or otherwise. Donated gifts â€” new or used â€” should be unwrapped.
Like most families â€” and since EMS workers do see some of the same children every year, family is exactly what they are â€” Oiler said much shopping remains to be done.
Like Santa Claus, they have an inches-thick book to help them. When the families register, they submit a wish list, which they hope to fulfill where reasonable.
Like your own family, Oiler said, â€œIf you have children and they want a [toy] dog, youâ€™re going to do your best to get it.â€
Besides Spider Man toys, Oiler said another common request is a humble one â€” a request for clothing.
â€œWeâ€™re able to do [this] because of the generosity of Trigg County,â€ Oiler said.
She said the program wouldnâ€™t be possible without the Countyâ€™s support of their three fundraisers â€” a golf tournament in August, a Memorial Trail Ride in honor of Martha Mitchell in October and a clay-pigeon shoot in December.
â€œWeâ€™re just a very giving community,â€ she said.
For the second year in a row, the registration fee for participants in this yearâ€™s Christmas parade was a $10-gift donation to Toys for Tots, resulting in what Oiler said was a Chevy Blazer filled to the brim with gifts.
Moreover, Blue Springs Baptist Church donated their $150 prize for being the winning float to the program.
Oiler is grateful for such help, because the task they take on every year is monumental.
â€œIt takes a lot when youâ€™re buying for 250 kids,â€ she said.
By their 13th year, the magic of Christmas has worn off for many children, leaving instead a morning simply of toys and gifts.
For Oiler, however, she is still moved just by talking about the children sheâ€™s helped, whose faces she can remember like a famous photograph, or remembering the family whose Christmas was made a dream come true by being given EMSâ€™s own Christmas tree.
â€œItâ€™s very emotional,â€ she said. â€œThe parents are just so appreciative.â€
Emotional â€” but bittersweet, too.
Bittersweet to know that the parents of many of these children are working full-time jobs, sometimes three among them, and still canâ€™t provide the Christmas theyâ€™d like for their children.
Bittersweet to know that many of the children they see beaming at the sight of their new bikes will likely be back next year.
Bittersweet to know that such small, thoughtful donations could ever mean so much.