Eagle Scout candidate donates hundreds of toys to JCOC
by Paige Rentz
When it came time to begin his Eagle Scout project, John Heintzelman wanted to embark on a project “that really meant something.” With more than 300 gifts already donated to the Jacksonville Christmas Outreach Center and more on the way, Heintzelman’s efforts will mean a great deal to hundreds of local children come Christmas morning.

“It’s amazing,” said JCOC chair Mary Agnes Hester of the large donation. “We’ve never had one like this before.”

John has been working on the project since the beginning of November and hopes to wrap it up by Dec. 9 when JCOC officially opens ‘Toyland’ for its clients. As of Monday, he had already dropped off 320 toys at the center and expects to reach 400 donations by the end of the week.

“I just feel great that I was able to give back to the community,” John said of his project.

More than 300 children received presents via Toyland last year, and 61 teens were served via gift cards, said Beth Johnson, a coordinator at the JCOC.

Hester explained that Toyland donates three presents — one small, medium and large — to children through 12 years of age. For teenagers, who are more difficult to buy for through general donations, the center distributes gift cards to purchase items. The value of the gift cards for teens depends each year on the amount of donations collected each year for the JCOC Christmas fund. In addition to that, she said, the center always has books for the children and games for the family. And volunteers really push balls or other sports equipment that can get children outside and playing.

“It’s a huge undertaking,” Hester said, noting that the center continues to sign families up for appointments at Toyland through the end of the November.

According to John’s mother, Marie Heintzelman, the devoted scout has worked with both Jacksonville First Baptist and Eagle Point churches and Jacksonville High School and Kitty Stone Elementary School for the toy drive.

Heintzelman said Walgreen’s allowed her son to stand outside of the store and distribute fliers about the types of toys he was collecting to customers coming to shop. He collected more than 100 toys from that day alone.

John, a 15-year-old Jacksonville High School sophomore, has been scouting since he joined the Tiger Scouts as a first grader and has wanted to be an Eagle Scout ever since he knew the rank existed.

“It feels great and amazing,” he said of passing his review to achieve the long-awaited rank.

John’s mother has watched her son’s commitment to scouting and making a difference grow over his near-decade scouting. “The man that I see him becoming is just awesome,” she said.
© 2012