Lifepoint Dental Partners accepting gently used toys

Christmas 2013 is 11 months away, but Marshalltown Lifepoint Dental Partners’s patients and staff are making sure needy Iowa children aren’t left out.

They started one month ago and the building’s basement, 206 E. State St., is full of donated toys.

Additionally, there are dolls, games and stuffed animals on display near exam rooms to remind patients more are needed.

It is all part of an effort initiated by Lifepoint Dental Group President Aaron Blass of West Des Moines to make sure Vince and Judy Else of Nodaway can continue their “Share-a-Toy” project.

The Elses have been cleaning and repairing used toys for the less fortunate 50 years, and all toys collected for Christmas, 2013 were destroyed in a fire that burned a workshop to the ground Dec. 17.

Fortunately, Christmas 2012 toys were unscathed.

But the Elses plan to distribute thousands of toys for Christmas 2013 was dealt a severe setback.

And that is when Blass and company decided to help.

“My wife and I heard about the Else’s fire and decided we had to do something,” Blass said. “We have four children, and know how important Christmas is to them. We want other kids to have the same opportunity.”

The three Lifepoint Dental Group offices in Ankeny, Marshalltown and West Des Moines marshaled forces and began publicizing the Else’s plight to patients and others.

The donations started coming in and have not stopped.

“The response has been phenonomal,” Blass said. “This has been a neat outreach program for us to be involved in and help out. We easily could fill a U-Haul with toys.”

Marshalltown staffer Amanda Ramirez was equally excited.

“We could fill a large van with donated toys,” Ramirez said.

“And we are still accepting gently used dolls, games, puzzles and other toys.”

The office will accept donations through Feb. 1.

And the Elses will be able to use all.

“We’ve distributed about 30,000 toys in the past four years,” Vince Else said. “We’ve had a pretty good response of toys and cash donations since the fire. An Omaha company gave a substantial discount on a pole barn building and we received a local donation of labor and cement for a floor. We’ll have to wait until spring for construction to start, but we’ll get there.”

Vince Else is a retired educator.

He inadvertently started the program 50 years ago when he gave a toy to a parent who could not afford to buy Christmas gifts for his son.

He and spouse Judy Else have been at it since.

“After the fire we thought it might be some kind of sign that we should stop,” Vince Else said. “But my wife and I are going to keep on until we can’t.”

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