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'Tots' makes Christmas dreams come true

by CAROLINE LOBSINGER
Staff Writer | December 1, 2023 1:00 AM

Sebastião Salgado had a dream.

Once a thriving forest, the area around the legendary photojournalist's home in the Minas Gerais area of Brazil was barren and desolate.

Salgado and his family decided to take matters into their own hands. According to a story on the Good News Network website, Salgado and his wife, Lélia, formed the Instituto Terra. The couple and a team of volunteers began planting trees — millions, in fact, over a 20-year period.

In that time, the group planted more than 20 million trees encompassing 290 different species across 1,500 acres.

The result?

Restoration of a natural forest ecosystem, one that is attracting rare animals. The area, the story notes, is now thriving.

Salgado has authored a half-dozen books, exhibited his photographs around the world, and has documented countless events.

It was coming back from one of those events that Salgado discovered what had happened.

“The land was as sick as I was – everything was destroyed,” Salgado told the Guardian in 2015. “Only about 0.5% of the land was covered in trees. Then my wife had a fabulous idea to replant this forest. And when we began to do that, then all the insects and birds and fish returned and, thanks to this increase of the trees I, too, was reborn – this was the most important moment.”

Like the Salgado and the Instituto Terra, the Sandpoint Lions want to make a difference in the world, working to make Christmas merry for all.

With the community's help, the Lions' Toys for Tots drive provides free new toys for children in need who live in the Lake Pend Oreille School District, from Sandpoint to Clark Fork and all points in-between. In addition, gift cards to get the fixings for a Christmas dinner is also given to families.

While no donations were received today, $3,155 has been raised to date. The goal for this year’s Toys for Tots campaign is $75,000, an increase over past years due to the number of people needing help.

The Lions make the most of the money by bargain shopping and with the assistance of generous local businesses. 

Funds raised during the annual campaign go to purchase new toys for area children — or gift cards for older youth — who live in the Lake Pend Oreille School District. Every Christmas, the Lions help almost 1,000 area children, from Sandpoint to Clark Fork and all points in between.

In addition, the Lions give a gift card to a local grocery store so that families can get supplies for their Christmas dinner.

The Lions started taking applications earlier this month, and demand for the program is already well above last year's total, with 100 more applications submitted during the first week than in 2022.

The club is accepting Toys for Tots applications until Dec. 15. Applications are available on the Lions' website, and printed copies are available on the door of the Lions Club, 609 S. Ella Ave.

Donations for Toys for Tots can be dropped off at the front desk at the Bonner County Daily Bee, 310 Church St., from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. You can also drop off donations (checks and cashier's checks) at Umpqua Bank’s Sandpoint branch, 414 Church St., or at the Ponderay branch, 300 Bonner Mall Way; and at the Ponderay Starbucks. 

Donations may be mailed to the Sandpoint Lions Club, Box 414, Sandpoint, ID 83864.

Donations made by check are preferred. Be sure to include a note with your check indicating that it is a Toys for Tots donation. If you wish to make an anonymous donation, please mention that in your note.

If the donation is being made in someone’s name, be sure to also include a note.

Information: Sandpoint Lions Club, 208-263-4118, or online at bit.ly/SandpointLions


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