A Rotary Christmas: Red kettles and Santa toys

Tom KingFarragut

If ever – and I repeat if ever – families needed help around the holidays, it’s in this year of COVID-19, of jobs lost, of tight or no money and a sense of wondering what’s next.

In this holiday spirit, the Rotary Club of Farragut’s two Christmas projects are upon us.

The club will partner with the Salvation Army the next two Saturdays at the Farragut Kroger store’s main entrance (closet to Kingston Pike). The Rotarians will have the famous Red Kettle set up and the bells ringing while maintaining social distancing. Rotarian Mike Singletary makes this happen.

Rotarian Tom Marsh plays and sings
Christmas music last year

With masks in place, we will begin at 10 a.m. and ring until 8 p.m. – on both Dec. 12 and Dec. 19. A few members are bringing their children with them. Two or three will be playing and singing a little Christmas music for shoppers. It may be chilly, and it may be raining a bit, but we will be there to help the Salvation Army meet its needs for their families to have a Merry Christmas.

The club’s other Christmas project culminates on Tuesday, Dec. 15, and is our first-ever East Tennessee Children’s Hospital Christmas Toy drive. Our goal was to collect 152 brand-new toys donated by members and others to deliver to ETCH on Tuesday to make sure the kids in the 152 patient beds on Christmas Day have toys from Santa to open and enjoy.

Yesterday, Scott Bertini, who coordinated this project for the club, announced that we have more than 300 new toys for ETCH’s kids. In addition to the 152, children in ETCH’s home-health care and rehab programs and in their Adopt-a-Family program (siblings included) also will get new toys for Christmas. Students in Hardin Valley Academy’s high school Rotary Interact Club also sewed and decorated 152 Christmas bags to put the toys in and also conducted a drive for new toys. The club also donated $1,150 to the ETCH Adopt-a-Family program.

Yesterday, Cheryl Allmon, ETCH’s director of community services, spoke to Farragut Rotarians via Zoom.

“I never dreamed when I began working with Scott that this project would grow to what it has become,” Allmon said. “This is amazing what your club is doing for us. The toys, the donations. I am so proud you all partnered with us.”

Bertini had a personal interest for this project. He proposed it through the club’s Service Projects Committee and has been coordinating it all for the past two months. His home garage became Toy Central. A few other Rotarians will help Scott load and deliver the toys on Tuesday.

Merry Christmas from Farragut Rotary!

To explore membership in the Rotary Club of Farragut, email tking535@gmail.com or call 865-659-3562. Tom King has served at newspapers in Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and California and has been the editor of two newspapers.

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