Suffolk’s new ‘top elf’

Published 6:01 pm Saturday, July 25, 2015

It’s Christmas in July — and all year ‘round, from now on — for Suffolk’s Margie Wiley.

The give-back guru who already is involved in more than half a dozen nonprofit organizations has recently added another big ornament on the tree — she’s the advocate for Suffolk Toys for Tots and its funding entity, the Cheer Fund.

It’s personal to her because of her childhood, she said.

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“Growing up as a kid, we didn’t have a lot,” she said. “But one of the big things we did every year with our church was our Christmas toy drive.”

Parishioners would come together to wrap gifts and distribute them. Seeing the children receive their presents was a joy, she said.

“I have a huge heart for giving back,” she said.

That’s an understatement for the woman who is involved in Suffolk Business Women, is treasurer for the Suffolk Wine Festival, is on the board of the Salvation Army and the YMCA, is involved in Suffolk Humane Society and is a member of the Suffolk Rotary Club’s board of directors. She’s also involved with the Care Clinic in Gloucester, where her office used to be located.

That’s all in addition to her work as an Edward Jones financial adviser.

The opportunity for her to take on one more role — that of Suffolk’s top elf — comes after John Woleben stepped down from the position after about 13 years at the helm.

“I think it’s important this program continues on,” Wiley said, noting that Suffolk’s Toys for Tots drive is distinct from the national program run by the Marine Corps in that all the money is raised locally and stays locally. “We’re not buying toys for Portsmouth. We’re not buying toys for Chesapeake. We are specifically raising money for kids here in Suffolk.”

The localization of the program is thanks to the Cheer Fund, which was started by the Suffolk News-Herald in the 1930s. It originally provided clothing and food to the needy but shifted focus to the city’s children over the years. Since the newspaper handles publicity and bookkeeping and the board is composed of volunteers, every penny you donate goes directly to buying toys.

“If you really care about how your money makes a difference and stays in the community you live in, work in, go to church in, serve in, there’s no better way than giving to Cheer Fund for Toys for Tots,” Wiley said. “What you give will impact a child here in our community.”

Wiley also encouraged people to give with their hearts and hands, as well.

“The Salvation Army would love to have you” as volunteers, she said. The Christmas shop, where parents who have been approved for assistance choose toys for their children, is always in need of volunteers and takes place a week or two before Christmas.

Donations for the Cheer Fund are accepted all year long. To donate, send a check to P.O. Box 1220, Suffolk, VA 23439 or bring it to our office, 130 S. Saratoga St., from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

We will list your donation in the newspaper, but it can be marked “anonymous” if you like. Donations may be made in honor of or in memory of someone. If you bring the check to our office, we’ll even take your picture as you hand it to one of our staff.

For more information on the Cheer Fund, call 934-9616.