By Tim Leeds
Dolls with new dresses and toys with new paint jobs are at Holiday Village Shopping Center, waiting to be joined with some lucky child for Christmas.
The toys have been completed by local people as part of the Dress-a-Doll/Design-a-Toy program coordinated by Holiday Village. The mall merchants each year donate the decorated toys to charities for distribution to local children, but this year there is a new twist. Some of the soft dolls and wooden toys like trains, airplanes and tractors will be auctioned, with the proceeds also going to charity.
"Some of them are just magnificent," said Angela Slade, marketing director for TKM Enterprises, the company that manages Holiday Village. "A lot of people asked how they could purchase them."
Holiday Village will hold a silent auction Dec. 6 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The proceeds from the auction will be donated to the Salvation Army for its Christmas projects, Slade said.
Holiday Village picked up the Dress-a-Doll/Design-a-Toy program about four years ago. It had been sponsored by downtown businesses at one time, but hadn't been done for a couple of years before the shopping center started running the program, Slade said.
The Mall Merchants Association purchases soft-bodied dolls without clothes, and wooden toys needing sanding and paint. Local people pick up the toys, sew the doll clothes and finish the wooden toys, then return them to Holiday Village.
The toys are evaluated in various categories by a panel of three judges, and people can cast their votes for a people's choice award. Then the toys are distributed to charities.
Slade said most of the toys will still be given to charities. Maybe 30 percent will be auctioned to benefit the Salvation Army, she said.
Peggy Kampf said she has been dressing dolls for the program for years, ever since it started in downtown Havre. She said she dressed 10 or 11 dolls this year.
"I just love sewing dolly dresses," Kampf said Tuesday. "And I think every kid needs a toy, a special thing."
She added that she has finished her sewing for the holiday season.
"I just shut my sewing machine up today. It goes shut today and it stays shut 'til after Christmas," Kampf said.
Noel Frost said she dresses the dolls both for the children who receive them and for her own benefit.
Frost said she suffered a stroke and has difficulty with some things, like working with numbers. The sewing is therapeutic.
She said following the directions for sewing the clothes was difficult at first, but she's kept at it and the work has gotten easier.
Her husband, Delbert, also donates his time and effort to the program, sanding and painting the wooden toys, she said.
They both have their methods, Frost said. Her husband has all the pieces spread in their home while he works on the toys.
She starts off following the patterns, "But I do my own thing after that," she said.
She added that she has completed three dolls this year, and is working on two more. She was waiting Tuesday for her sewing machine to be repaired - "Of all the times for that to happen," Frost said.
Alma Swan, who teaches middle school and high school students at Box Elder Public School, had her economics class paint the wooden toys last year and this year.
Not all of the students seemed to love the work, but some did, she said.
"Some took right off on it and really enjoyed it and did well," she said, adding that she plans to have students work on the toys again next year.
Slade said the Merchants Association spends about $1,100 buying the toys. People who want to work on the toys pick them up at Raising Kayne in Holiday Village, then return them there once they are completed.
After the toys are judged and ribbons awarded to the people who finished them, the Merchants Association distributes them to local charities.
Slade said the toys were originally given to the Havre Jaycees to be distributed through its Toys for Tots Christmas project, but last year the program expanded and also contacted other entities like the District IV Human Resources Development Council domestic violence shelter and the Havre Ministerial Association.
"It's a neat program. I think it reaches a lot of people," she said.