The Greater Lawrence Chamber of Commerce held its annual After Hours: Holiday Celebration event at the Hillcrest Country Club on Dec. 14. The event, hosted by Rotary Clubs of Indianapolis Northeast, benefited the Lawrence Fire Dept.’s Family Assistance Program, a year-round initiative that focuses on families and children in need during the holidays.
Attendees brought new, unwrapped toys to donate to the Family Assistance Program, resulting in a record amount of donations. According to Dr. April Krowel, chamber chair and neuropsychologist at The Brain Center at 6246 W. Broadway in McCordsville, the annual event has enjoyed success for nearly 10 years.
“I joined the Chamber in 2017, but this is my first year as chair,” Krowel said. “We’ve held this event for around 10 years, and it gets better each year.”
Krowel marveled at the number of toy donations displayed at the event.
“It’s so amazing to see the thoughtfulness of the community,” Krowel said. “Obviously, it was a huge turnout this year. It’s a great opportunity to allow kiddos from all different backgrounds to celebrate Christmas with nice, new toys.”
Krowel said the LFD’s Family Assistance Program has been around for many years thanks to LFD Chief Dino Batalis, who founded the initiative.
“He’s been doing it for as long as I can remember,” Krowel said.
Batalis began the Family Assistance Program 38 years ago to help support families in the Lawrence Township school district. However, sometimes help goes to families outside of the township’s boundaries.
“We try to keep everything within the boundary of Lawrence,” Batalis said. “But it’s hard to say no to a family in need that’s so close to the community just because of a street boundary.”
In previous years, the program has helped 700 families and gifted new toys to more than 800 children in the community.
“It’s just really great to see the spirit of the community come together for a great cause,” Krowel said.
Toys collected at the After Hours event were organized and packaged at the Lawrence Fire Dept. at 4450 McCoy St. the weekend following the event. The program’s food and toy donations helped over 800 families this holiday.