Newsplex - Heroes - Headlines

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.

The comments sections of are designed for thoughtful, intelligent conversation and debate. We want to hear from our viewers, but we only ask that you use your best judgment. E-mail is required, but will not be displayed with comment.

  • Comments cannot be profane or vulgar. We will not post comments that use profanity or cross the lines of good taste.
  • We will not post comments that use hate speech. Slurs, stereotypes and violent talk aren’t welcome on our website.
  • Comments should not attack other readers or people featured in our stories personally. Any accusations should be backed up with facts.
  • Any comment we post will be posted in its entirety. We do not edit any comment that we post.
  • Comments should contribute to the discussion. We will not post comments that don't advance the discussion. Flaming and/or trolling will not be tolerated.
  • Comments should not attack other posters. Let's keep the focus on the content of the story.

    As a host welcomes a wide spectrum of opinions. However this is a site that we host. We have a responsibility to all our readers to try to keep our comment section fair and decent. For that reason The Newsplex reserves the right to not post or to remove any comment.

    If you have any ideas to improve the conversation or this section let us know. Send an e-mail to


powered by Disqus
The Charlottesville Newsplex 999 2nd Street S.E. Charlottesville, VA 22902 434.242.1919 – Main 434.220.7522 - Newsroom
Gray Television, Inc. - Copyright © 2002-2014 - Designed by Gray Digital Media - Powered by Clickability 78466952