Donors’ generosity gives big boost to annual program

The Columbus Firemen’s Cheer Fund is celebrating an outpouring of generosity from local residents who showered local fire stations with basketloads of new and used toys over the weekend.

Ben Noblitt, a Columbus firefighter and Cheer Fund board member, was smiling Monday as he weaved his way through filled-to-the-brim shopping carts containing toys, games and stuffed animals at the Cheer Fund distribution site inside the United Way of Bartholomew County warehouse, 1531 13th St.

In addition to the carts filled with toys, larger donations such as two Barbie miniature Jeeps, several doll houses and activity centers were placed on the warehouse floor.

“This is just so great,” Noblitt said as he walked through the space that just a few days earlier was empty. “We really needed this.”

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Having already boxed up most of the holiday gifts on hand for youngsters the organization will serve this Christmas, Cheer Fund volunteers found themselves short of toys for the final 300 to 500 kids still on the list. So Noblitt sent out a social media notification last week that the toy drive might fall short without more help — which often happens right after Thanksgiving.

Noblitt described the situation as being extremely desperate to have enough toys for boys ages 8 to 12 and girls age 7 to 12 in his Facebook post, along with a photo showing empty shelves at the warehouse.

A story describing the situation also appeared on front page of Friday’s Republic.

Over the weekend, Noblitt said the toy-giving blitz began, with area residents showering local fire stations with bags of new and used toys.

“We had people lining up at Fire Station 1 out in front,” Noblitt said. “It got to the point we put up signs to have people follow the sidewalk as to where to drop off their donation.”

Firefighters collected six trailer-loads of toys from all the city’s fire stations, and are using every shopping cart they have to store them as they are sorted and boxed this week for the remaining kids assigned to the Cheer Fund to receive help.

The Cheer Fund already has completed 1,066 requests for gifts and expects to be at 1,200 or more children to be served by Friday, when registration closes.

In addition to the public’s generosity, the Cheer Fund is expecting a windfall of gifts to distribute from the Indiana Pacers, who held an event at The Commons on Tuesday, and also has received a large donation from a toy drive at IUPUC. Hoosier Pro Wrestling asked its fans to bring toys to its bouts at the Bartholomew County Fairgrounds this past weekend, which are also among the donations.

Cummins, Inc. employees dropped off dozens of hand-made red jewelry boxes for the gift effort, which are among the gifts being boxed this week. Checking in there, the employee who organizes the effort said he prefers to remain anonymous.

Noblitt still hopes that local residents will continue in their efforts to provide donations to the Cheer Fund, as volunteers still are waiting for final numbers after Friday on how many children they will need to serve.

“We just want to make sure we have enough for every child,” he said.

Cheer Fund toy deliveries will be made Dec. 16.

Where to drop off toys

Toys for the Columbus Fireman’s Cheer Fund may be dropped off by Friday at any of the six fire stations in Columbus.

Station 1: 1101 Jackson St. Phone, 812-376-2671.

Station 2: 2376 Arnold St. Phone, 812-376-2672.

Station 3: 80 S. Gladstone Ave. Phone, 812-376-2673.

Station 4: 4730 E. 25th St. Phone, 812-376-2674.

Station 5: 100 Goeller Ct. Phone, 812-376-2675.

Station 6: 1900 W. 450 South. Phone, 812-376-2676.

On the Web

To learn more about the Columbus Firemen’s Cheer Fund, visit cheerfund.com/

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.