Photo courtesy of the Gallipolis LEO club. From left: Tori Corvin, Morgan Watson, Ellie Rose, Bailey Watson, and Brianna Sanders.

The Gallipolis LEO Club is currently holding a stuffed animal drive to benefit the Gallia County Sheriff’s Office. Deputies utilize the stuffed animals to connect with children during traumatic situations.

The stuffed animal drive is just one of the many community projects the first-year club, which is a part of Lions Club International, has organized or participated in since its formation in the fall.

“They’ve been extremely successful this year. I never dreamed they would do everything they are doing,” said Chris Homer, a 23-year member of the Gallipolis Lions Club, who serves as the Lion’s Club advisor for the group. “They are doing one project after another and they’re not stopping at all. It’s just amazing to me, all the things they are doing.”

The club was organized by Gallia Academy High School teacher Sandra Mayes, with the assistance of Homer, to help students create connections in the community.

“I realized the students need more outlets and opportunities to volunteer in the community,” said Mayes.

Mayes’ desire to see students more involved in volunteer opportunities is two-fold. Not only does she feel it is important to give students the foundation of helping the community and working together before they head out into the world, she also knows many of the students will need to show they are active in the community when applying for jobs, colleges, and scholarships. The 32 members currently active with the group have already logged 120 volunteer hours.

The idea for the stuffed animal drive came about through Mayes’ experience with the Gallipolis Jr. Women’s Club, who do a Buddy Bear project in conjunction with law enforcement and Children’s Services. With Valentine’s Day approaching and the stuffed animal sales that usually follow, she thought it would be a positive project for the students to undertake and reached out to Gallia County Sheriff Matt Champlin for approval.

According to Gallia County Sheriff Matt Champlin, deputies carry the stuffed animals in their cruisers in the event they are needed to connect with young children during a traumatic event. Due to limited storage, though the stuffed animals are greatly appreciated, Champlin did ask that individuals and organizations contact his office to be certain they are in need of stuffed animals, before organizing a drive.

Gallipolis LEO Club president Makena Saunders.

The club members apparently agreed with Mayes’ assessment. Club President Makena Saunders said the stuffed animal drive fell in line with what the club has been doing over the past months, which included assisting the Lions Club with their Christmas project, stuffing Christmas stockings for children and packing “blessing bundles” for Guiding Hand School students, to name only a few.

“We normally go for projects that help the community, especially the children,” said Saunders.

Saunders said all donations are appreciated, whether it is just one stuffed animal or multiple. Mayes said they are also accepting monetary donations, which will be used to purchase stuffed animals.

Homer said the LEO clubs throughout the county are important because the youth are the future.

“The Leos are a huge asset to the Lions because they are the future Lions of the world.  They help us on different projects and learn our concepts and ideas on how to do things; in return, we learn from them. It’s great to learn new ways of doing things from the Leos and how they want to make a difference in their own concept,” said Homer. “I just want to say I am so proud of each and every Leo.  They are making a difference by volunteering in their community.”

If you would like to donate to the Gallipolis LEO stuffed animal drive, you can contact Mayes at (740) 645-1853 or donate to any Gallipolis LEO member. You can also keep up-to-date with the Gallipolis LEO club’s projects on their Facebook page.