MUSCATINE, Iowa–For 11 years, Viola Werner has used her annual Toyz 4 Kidz Fundraiser to help the Salvation Army of Muscatine County provide bikes and other toys to families in need through their Toy Time drive. Traditionally, she has hosted a single event at Jody’s Bar in downtown Muscatine to raise the majority of the money that she and other volunteers use to purchase the items they donate to the Salvation Army. With the assistance of several community partners, including Chamberlin Heating and Air Conditioning and the Muscatine County Sheriff’s Office, the number of bikes and toys donated has grown every year. In another push to increase donations, Werner will hold an additional Toyz 4 Kidz Chili Cookoff at the Muscatine American Legion Post 27 Oct. 9.
A long time organizer of soup suppers at the American Legion, Werner thought that having an event to support Toyz 4 Kidz just made sense. When she talked to several other people at the American Legion about it, they heartily agreed. “Some of them thought a cookoff would be better, so we’re going to try it,” she said. From 1 to 5 p.m. Oct. 9, people can come out to the American Legion, located at 110 South Houser Street in Muscatine, to enjoy all the chili they care to eat for $5. To ensure everyone has plenty of chili, Werner encourages attendees to bring a pot of their own favorite homemade chili to share. Along with having a tasty meal, guests can enter into a 50/50 drawing as well as purchase tickets to enter into a raffle for a variety of fun prizes.
The additional chili cookoff at the American Legion will only add to the year’s fun and giving, and the original Toyz 4 Kidz Chili Cookoff will still take place at Jodi’s Bar at 226 Walnut Street in downtown Muscatine Oct. 30. Starting at 11 a.m., people can enter either by bringing chili to share or by paying $5 to eat as much as they like. 50/50 drawings, raffles, and mystery prize drawings will keep the fun going until 5 p. m. and give people the chance to win one of several fun gifts.
Though Werner feared that 2020 would prove a lean year for donations, as the COVID-19 pandemic financially stressed many people, she found that donations remained as generous as ever, bringing in $5,000 for her to spend on bikes and toys for the Salvation Army. “I always have hope,” she shared. “Some years are harder than others-I thought last year would be hard, but a lot of people reached out through Facebook.”
This year, Werner has set an even higher goal for Toyz 4 Kidz. Through participation in both chili cookoffs and other community donations, she hopes to raise enough money to donate 100 bikes. “It sounds like a lofty goal, but with the help of the Sheriff’s Office and Chamberlin Heating and Cooling, it may be achievable,” she asserted.