Volunteers brighten Christmas in Monte Vista

Courtesy photos by Ruthanne Johnson Bob Bryning, Kendra Sears and Mary Bryning stand beside bicycles, skateboards and other goodies donated throughout the year by local businesses for their annual toy drive. 

MONTE VISTA— In the days before Christmas, a few events around town in Monte Vista set the bar for giving without receiving.

Thursday and Friday, locals Bob and Mary Bryning, and their granddaughter Kendra Seras, gave away dozens of bags filled with brand-new toys for families unable to afford Christmas gifts for their kids.

This year marks the 13th year for the toy drive, which was started in remembrance of 10-year old Madison Scalzo, who was killed by a drunk driver in October 2006. There is also a Christmas tree at Second and Adams Streets honoring young Madison. Anyone who has lost someone is invited to add ornaments to the tree in remembrance. This season’s ornaments have the names of loved ones scrawled on them in marker. Others are somehow symbolic of the person who died. Madison’s family here in Monte Vista calls the tree “Madison’s Angels.” 

The Brynings distribute boxes to local businesses throughout the year to help fill the coffer with enough toys for the big Christmas giveaway. This year’s treasures included bikes, skateboards, every kind of sports ball imagined, Barbie dolls, bath sets, stuffed animals, blankets, mittens and even movie tickets. The bicycles and skateboards were donated by Gateway Motor owner Jeff Hasci, who holds a special discount every year for car buyers who bring in bicycles and skateboards for the toy drive.

This is how the toy drive works: Families call in with the gender and age of their children and the Brynings and their granddaughter pack gift sets befitting each family’s needs. A Christmas card for the family is also included. Families picking up toys this year hailed from Monte Vista, Center, Del Norte, Alamosa and Saguache. On Friday afternoon, the pace of pickups was about every five minutes.

Elsewhere in town, the Monte Vista Kiwanis headed to senior living facilities to hand out Christmas cards and candy canes to seniors. On Thursday, Kiwanis board member Colette Skeff visited with residents in Monte Vista Estates during their lunchtime. She also walked down each hallway to make sure no one was missed. Skeff’s personal connection to many of the residents was apparent, like one mother of a longtime friend with whom she chatted for a while and the town’s former locksmith, who said he hoped to be back home before Christmas. 

The scene was similar at the Veteran Seniors Community at Homelake, as Don and Janet Noland and Wayne Wittner visited with folks and handed out Christmas goodies along with smiles and a sincere, “Thank you for your service.” 

Kiwanis members visited individuals at the Tri County Seniors Center and Legacy Senior Home on Friday. 

The Kiwanis are a global community of clubs, members and partners dedicated to improving the lives of children. Kiwanis clubs host nearly 150,000 service projects each year. In Monte Vista, the Kiwanis raise money for scholarships and other projects, such as an annual dictionary giveaway for third graders (coming up in January). Past projects include helping build the basketball court at Chapman Park and the installation of a bench at Faith Hinkley Memorial Park.

At a recent Kiwanis meeting, board members agreed that the next generation needs to step up with volunteer hours if the Kiwanis and other local charitable organizations are expected to continue. Otherwise, they will eventually peter out.   

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Kiwanis board member Colette Skeff, far left, handed out candy canes and Christmas cards to Monte Vista Estates residents.

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Don and Janet Noland with the Kiwanis left no door un-knocked on during their candy cane giveaway at Homelake.


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