Santa and child at ToyliftOne big clue that Christmas is nearing takes place on the first Friday of December when Fluvanna folks team up with other Charlottesville-centric counties to make sure the season is a happy one for all local kids.

This year was no different thanks to the efforts of business owners Ed and Denise Lauterbach who, time and again, have filled the corner of the Food Lion parking lot with lots of reasons to celebrate.

Together with the help of everyday people, the Lauterbachs provide sweet treats and entertainment as an open invitation for the public to donate toys.

“This is when we show our true elf selves,” said a freckle-faced Nathaniel Kidd after receiving a cash donation. “It’s providing for those who can’t provide for themselves by making their Christmas just a little bit better.”

Toy Lift is the signature event of Toy Lift Charities, begun in 1988 by auto industry worker Tom Powell when he learned there were local kids who would go without toys at Christmas because their families didn’t qualify for social programs. Powell perched himself 80 feet high in a bucket truck at the corner of Hydraulic Road and Route 29 in Charlottesville until his actions would generate 1,000 donated toys that he could share with those kids. Sure enough, he did it.

And that’s only the beginning. Toy Lift has grown into a huge annual inter-community event that helps to bridge the gap for families who are identified by guidance directors at area schools as needing assistance.  With lots of food, entertainment, media coverage, and satellite locations like Fluvanna, Powell’s foundation has annually raised around 17,000 toys.

And as heartwarming as it must have been at the start to see Powell suspended and waving to people from the lift above the highway, it is just as uplifting to witness rugged outdoorsmen half-hanging out the cabs of their trucks in order to beckon the dancing, singing elves at Toy Lift Fluvanna.

One gentleman who pulled up to the toy lift could only stare when asked what brought him there. “For kids, I mean,” he said, and then shrugged.

None of the festivities were lost on young Virginia Chiesa, who was heading to Food Lion with her grandfather when she noticed the music and inflatable attractions in front of Lauterbach Chiropractic.

“I said, ‘Oh! Can we go over there? Please please please?’” she laughed.

Her grandfather, Fred Chiesa, grinned. “I think it’s a great cause. It’s a wonderful thing they’re doing to help provide for our community’s children for Christmas,” he said.

“And the smile on a child’s face is priceless,” Kidd added.

Those smiles and the comfort of local parents knowing their kids will have a great Christmas are two of the many reasons the Lauterbachs partner with Charlottesville’s toy lift by providing the satellite location for Fluvanna, the couple said.
Friday’s event, combined with an ongoing toy collection at Fluvanna Middle School, collected 368 books, 850 toys, and $2,016, said Daniel Lauterbach, son of Ed and Denise Lauterbach and “official counter” for Toy Lift Fluvanna.

The toys will go to a central location to be sorted for specific children, then will be distributed by volunteers.