Toys For Tots in Longbranch Brings Smiles and Santa

Mate Greenatck, 12, with reindeer antlers, helps Chase Midway, 9, wrap a present for Midway's cousin Conner.
Mattea Greenatck, 12, with reindeer antlers, helps Chase Didway, 9, wrap a present for Midway’s cousin Conner.
Kobe Niz, 7, get his face painted in a skeletal pattern by Jackie Baltmiskis.
Kobe Niz, 7, gets his face painted in a skeletal pattern by Jackie Baltmiskis.

For Jackie Baltmiskis, Christmas is about putting smiles on children’s faces.

She cannot remember not ever doing it — even as a Girl Scout Brownie.

As far as the Gig Harbor high school junior and member of Girl Scout Troop 40050 can remember, this is what you do during the Christmas season.

“We have been doing this for so long,” Baltmiskis said. “This is like part of our holidays.

“It is fun for us. It is fun to see the beautiful kids have fun,” she added.

Baltmiskis and girls from 10 local Girl Scout troops were taking part in the Longbranch Improvement Club’s Kids N Christmas toy giveaway Sunday afternoon in the club’s historic house along the Key Peninsula Highway in Longbranch.

This is the club’s third year hosting the event that is part of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program.

TOYS #4
The Longbranch Improvement Club’s Kids N Christmas was a family affair with toys, a hotdog meal and snapshots with Santa.
Lizzy Barry, 12, bottom left, helped give away toys at the "Fishing For Toys" booth.
Lizzy Barry, 12, bottom left, helped give away toys at the “Fishing For Toys” booth.

“This is a family affair,” club organizer Nancy Carr said. “A kid cannot come without a parent and a parent cannot come without a kid.”

The Longbranch club supplements the gifts they pick up from Toys for Tots with items the club donates. All told, the club contributes more than a quarter of the toys given out at the event, according to Carr. The club also provides a Santa and a free hotdog meal.

“We do this through donations and our own toy drives,” she said.

The club works closely with Evergreen Elementary School to get an accurate count of children in every age group “to find out what gifts to get,” Carr said.

They expect to give away more than 150 gifts this year, she said.

The interactive twist to the event were the ‘you make it, you take it” craft tables ran by the Girl Scouts. Children could make something from beads, wrap gifts or have their faces painted. According to Carr, the Longbranch club provides the materials the girls use.

“They get whatever they make,” she said. “We encourage them to to make not just something for themselves” but also for people they know.

On a long table in front of the raised stage all lit up by a train and snowman made of lights, Chase Didway focused on wrapping a book for his cousin Conner.

A few tables down in a dark corner of the building, Kobe Niz, 7, sat patiently as Baltmiskis carefully painted a skeletal design on his face.

“It didn’t take too long,” Niz declared, happy with the teen-aged Girl Scout’s work and running off for a snapshot with Santa.

Santa arrived in style earlier in the afternoon in a carnival red 1963 Mercury Monterrey convertible to the delight of the dozens of children and their parents.

“That you get to sit on Santa’s lap” is why this is fun, said Didway.

And what was he going to tell Santa?

“That I want a bulldog,” the 9-year-old said with a smile.

Fred Leenstra delivers Santa at the Longbranch Improvement Club house in a carnival red 1963 Mercury Monterrey. Photo courtesy of Richard Hildahl.
Fred Leenstra delivers Santa at the Longbranch Improvement Club house in a carnival red 1963 Mercury Monterrey. Photo courtesy of Richard Hildahl.

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