43rd annual Linn Thornton Toy Drive kicks off

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Plans include non-traditional Christmas dinner

Efforts are continuing in the 43rd annual Linn Thornton Memorial Christmas Toy Drive and closing in on the 36th annual Christmas Day dinner in Monett.

Earnie Thornton, son of the late Linn Thornton, said this week he is collecting toys from individuals, businesses and organizations for children and youth from birth to age 16.

Toys may be dropped off at Architectural Systems Inc. (ASI) in Monett on Highway 60, or at the 402 Broadway location. Toys may also be dropped at 909 Industrial Dr. in Aurora, and at 298 E. Cedar St. in Granby. Those wishing to have toys picked up may call Leta Thornton at 417-489-2614.

Financial donations are especially helpful and may be made to the Linn Thornton Christmas account at Freedom Bank in Monett.

“Due to the state of the economy, unemployment and the pandemic, we expect to serve more kids and families this year,” said Cassie Branch, office manager at ASI. “However, we anticipate smaller and fewer donations. Our greatest need is toy donations. In the past, we would have donations from groups of people at different area businesses. However, with most of those companies working from home, we are unsure of from where those donations will come.”

The annual dinner will be held on Christmas Day at the First United Methodist Church, located at 1600 N. Central in Monett, from 11 a.m. until the food runs out, usually by 2 p.m. The event was originally designed to provide an old-fashioned seated Christmas gathering, especially for people unable to prepare a big meal for themselves, for those living alone or travelers.

This year’s event will look different due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and meals will be distributed by drive through under the tent adjacent to the kitchen at the church or by delivery only.

Thornton said he plans to cook 25 turkeys, six or eight hams, and 450-500 pounds of chicken. The remaining menu will consist of mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, green beans and stuffing.

“It will be just the basics,” Thornton said.

Thornton, who has recently undergone double bypass surgery, will count heavily on his volunteers to help out this year.

“We are trying to get things going early this year,” said Leta Thornton. “I have a feeling we are going to be swamped.”

Last year, volunteers prepared about 1,000 meals. This year, they expect the number to swell to about 1,200.

“With this pandemic, I’m sure attendance will be higher,” Thornton said. “We will start cooking a couple of days in advance and pack meals up for distribution.”

People unable to attend are welcome to call on Christmas Day for a home delivery. They should contact Leta Thornton at 417-489-2614.

The toy drive will operate somewhat differently than it has in previous years. Leta Thornton will start accepting calls for those needing toys on Dec. 1, and recipients will be given directions on how to pick up their items.

“I just can’t deliver them this year,” Thornton said.

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