Jennifer's Heroes: Tom Powell, Toy Lift Organizer

By: Jennifer Black Email
By: Jennifer Black Email

December 3, 2009

Twenty-one year ago, Tom Powell was frustrated with his own kids. He was looking at toys he had given them for Christmas the previous year, toys that for months had gone untouched. That's when he decided to do his part every year to make sure no child goes without a merry Christmas, by lifting toys and lifting spirits.

Tom Powell organized the first Charlottesville Toy Lift 21 years ago.

"We had a goal of collecting 500 toys. The object was, I was going to stay in the bucket truck until we collected 500 toys, no matter how many days it took," said Powell.

Powell says the Toy Lift aims to fill the gaps where families fall through the cracks. They strive to provide gifts to children no matter the situation at home.

Powell only truly realized the need for the Toy Lift after the overwhelming support he received during the inaugural event. To his surprise, it only took about three hours to collect 500 toys, and by the end of the day, he had doubled his goal.

The first may have taken only three days to organize, but 21 years later, the planning takes up much of Powell's free time.

"It's a second full-time job. We literally finish in December and we start planning [the next lift] in January," said Powell.

Even stage-four cancer could not keep Tom Powell from making his annual Toy Lift appearance. Today, Powell is five year cancer-free, but admits a full day at the Toy Lift is not easy for his aging body. However, he's quick to say it's worth all the trouble.

"Usually by the end of the day I have no voice left and my legs are about gone. As long as I can walk around and stand up or be pushed around, I'm going to be here doing the Toy Lift," said Powell.

Powell says the Toy Lift helps the thousands of children who go without presents every year. There are three Toy Lift locations you can drop of toys on Friday: Fashion Square Mall in Albemarle County, the Crozet Shopping Center, and Lake Monticello. You can also make a monetary donation online.


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