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It’s no secret that Levy County has a large percentage of its population living below the poverty line. A recent health report noted that 42 percent of county children live below the poverty line and 37 percent live in single-parent homes.
Although there are many reasons — lack of education, lack of opportunity, an unwillingness on their parents’ part — these children are not responsible for their situation.
And, yet, I am sure every year those children look forward to Christmas and the possibility of a gift under the tree.
In years past the Tri County Marine Corp League Detachment 1810 with the unflagging work of Vince and Pat Arcadi worked year ‘round to raise money and collect toys and gifts for those children in Dixie, Levy and Gilchrist counties.
The Arcadis can no longer go the way they once have and this year scaled back their work to their home county Dixie.
So it was, too late in the year, that Levy County found itself with no umbrella organization to provide toys for several hundred children whose parents, and in many cases the grandparents rearing them, could not afford gifts.
Some organizations and individuals stepped into the breech. Walgreens collected for children in the Guardian ad litem program. The Children’s Table collected for the children in Bronson. Karen Driggers and her friends at Second Times a Charm and Skinny Wallet collected for the children in the Chiefland area. Another Way collected for the children in its shelter — victims of more than economic circumstances. In Williston, the AMVETS Post 444 collected toys for their children.
Helping out in a big way was Paul Pilny who organizes the Citrus County Toys for Tots program. The Marines in Detachment 810 sent the Levy County children over 300 toys, and batteries for the toys, valued at just under $10,000.
The feeling of opening and reading his email offering the toys is indescribable. It’s uplifting and humbling. It’s a reaffirmation of humanity in a season shocked by the selfish violence in Newtown, Conn.
But back to the larger challenge children face in Levy County:
It is time for a group of people — representative of every community in this county — to get together and start working to prevent the last-minute scramble to find, wrap and distribute gifts and to rely on the good will of outsiders to take care of our children.
Levy County needs a few good people to step up, get together, find a coordinator and win the blessing of the Toys for Tots Foundation and, by February, have someone ready to head to Washington to take the necessary training to operate Toys for Tots once again.
All it takes is us, together for our children.
Lou Elliott Jones, editor of the Chiefland Citizen and Cedar Key Beacon, can be contacted at 352-493-4796 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.