Lauterbach celebrates 16 years of success with Toy Lift

By Madeline Otten

In 2003, Ed Lauterbach teamed up with Toy Lift foundation to collect toys and donations in hopes to bring a little more joy during the holiday season to those who are in tougher situations. Inspired by Toy Lift founder, Tom Powell, Lauterbach believes that no child should wake up without presents on Christmas day and has been working with Toy Lift for 16 years to ensure his belief. This year, Toy Lift Fluvanna collected approximately 400 toys, books, bikes, and around $1,650 in cash and check donations.

The Toy Lift was founded in 1989 by Powell and is a volunteer run charity that serves the City of Charlottesville, Albemarle, Buckingham, Fluvanna, Greene, Nelson, and Orange counties. Its mission is to support local families through volunteerism, community cooperation, moral building, and educational tools. They seek to provide that support throughout the year.

When Lauterbach first started the satellite location in Fluvanna, his first set up was a pop-up tent near Ace Hardware.

“I knew Tom Powell from Charlottesville when [my family and I] lived there,” said Lauterbach. “I called him when we moved out here and asked him how we could help, and he said ‘collect toys!’”

Lauterbach decided that instead of just sitting a box in his office, he went with the same set up idea as the larger Toy Lift location, which included a day full of celebration with same day drop off, Santa and his elves, hot cocoa, cookies, etc.

“It created a more festive, hands-on event and people and the public really enjoy that aspect of it,” said Lauterbach.

At first, the base of donations and help came from Lauterbach’s patients, family, and friends. His sister-in-law, Cindy South, was in charge of making costumes and was an elf herself. His son, Daniel, started as an elf and then assumed the responsibility of collections as chief toy, book, and money counter. Lauterbach’s other son, Nick, helped with set up and the elves, and his wife, Denise, helped with everything, especially with the cookies, cocoa and keeping the event live and fun.

“As the years went on, we started to get bigger and we then relocated to the Food Lion plaza about 13 years ago,” said Lauterbach. “It’s a great location and perfect for what we do. We added a large tent, heater, chair for Santa, and blow-up floats.”

Fluvanna’s Toy Lift is sponsored by Lauterbach’s office, Lauterbach Chiropractic Acupuncture, Massage & Laser Therapy with some help from other businesses. Patsy Strong donated advertising for the Toy Lift again and Mike Eurell from ME2 Catering donated food for the volunteers. This year, Fluvanna alone had almost 600 children on the Toy Lift list and about 4,000 children combined from all the schools in the participating areas.

“What we do is a small part and doesn’t even scratch the surface of what Toy Lift charities provides our county,” said Lauterbach. “The need continues to grow every year.”

After the event, the toys are picked up by local resident and business owner Eric Taylor with Armstrong Landscaping and delivered to the warehouse in Charlottesville. The warehouse is staffed with hundreds of volunteers who unload and sort the donations. On the following Saturday and Sunday, representatives from each school go shopping for pre-approved children from lists and the toys are packed and presented to the parents.

In order to ensure the event runs smoothly, Latuerbach attends at least one meeting to communicate his needs for the event. While the stress does not arrive until Halloween and Thanksgiving time, Lauterbach and his team of volunteers do their best to host and creative a positive environment for all those to come and check it out.

Next year’s Toy Lift event will be on Dec. 4, 2020 and will always be on the first Friday in December. And even though December of 2020 is a year away, Lauterbach and his team also do a small backpack drive in August, and a coat and blanket drive from October through November in addition to the Toy Lift to help collect items throughout the year.

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