ANDERSON — The Anderson High School boys basketball team got home late on Saturday night after a tough 87-66 road loss at Fort Wayne Snider. But on Sunday, instead of running a tough practice with his team, coach Joe Nadaline helped his players really bounce back.
They helped make Christmas a reality for needy children in Madison County.
The Indians spent their Sunday afternoon sorting through almost 1,000 toys, coats and gloves at Operation Love in Anderson. Operation Love Ministries, headquartered at 620 E. 21st St., is an organization dedicated to serving the poor and less fortunate and assisting them in becoming self-sufficient. Organizer Yolanda Wilkins said this is the group’s third year collecting toys and coats to distribute to families throughout the county, and this is the best contribution they’ve had yet.
“We’re hoping to make Christmas happen for about 350 families in the county,” Wilkins said.
Operation Love has been taking toy donations since October and just recently received a sizable donation from Kevin Hummel’s Second Chance to Get it Right. The basketball team also donated 34 new toys, and Wilkins said even more were on the way. The organization just received a $1,500 donation, and several volunteers spent Sunday at stores working on wish lists.
“What we do is look at what is most needed, and work from there. This year, we’ve seen that the 8- to 12-year-old age group is probably most in need,” Wilkins said.
For the players, it was a chance to give back and offer community service.
“It’s easier than practice,” senior guard Kenya Wilkerson jokingly said. “We’re happy to do it. We know that by doing this, we’re helping someone else to smile. It makes me feel wonderful.”
Nadaline said he thinks it’s good for his players to learn community service, especially since most of them have come from solid backgrounds.
“It’s a good opportunity for them,” Nadaline said. “They’re fortunate to be where they are and hopefully it’s something they appreciate. Everyone sees them on the court and this is a good chance for them to be seen really making a difference.”
With most of the toys sorted and organized, Wilkins now has to prepare Operation Love to receive families on Saturday. She said typically mothers come and take the donations they need.
“It’s a very emotional moment. A very joyful moment,” Wilkins said. “A lot of them wouldn’t be able to give their families a Christmas, otherwise.”
Like Jack Molitor on Facebook and follow him @aggiejack4 on Twitter, or call 640-4883.
If you want to help Contact Yolanda Wilkins at Operation Love, 644-2121, or stop by Operation Love Ministries at 620 E. 21st St., Anderson.