By JOSH VARDAMAN
Courier staff writer
---- — OTTUMWA — Usually Christmas tree decorating comes with lights and ornaments, not a chainsaw. But thanks to some creativity and a great cause to donate to, one log was transformed into a snowman, and it is helping to raise money for the Ottumwa Fire Department’s Operation Sparky Clause program.
During last year’s holiday season, O’Hara Hardware was in the midst of trying to sell chainsaws, and a former OFD fireman was demonstrating how to use them. He carved a snowman into one of the logs, then, surprisingly, someone purchased the carving. That’s when he and O’Hara's decided maybe they should try it again and do it for the good of the community.
“People wanted to buy the carvings, and we thought, ‘why not donate to a good cause,’” said the chainsaw sculptor, who would rather stay anonymous so he doesn’t draw any notoriety away from the donations.
This year, the sculptor and O’Hara's partnered with OFD and offered a newly carved snowman for purchase with all of the money from the highest bidder going toward buying coats for the Operation Sparky Claus program at the fire department.
In its third year of operation, the program has been successful in providing over 30 coats to community members in need, according to organizer Josh Chance of OFD, and they also have given toys to local families, thanks to their annual toy drive. This year, they have given out about a dozen coats so far, and Chance expects another 20 or so to be given out this weekend.
The snowman, or woodman if you want to get technical, was purchased by Payday Today, a local Ottumwa business, for $1,050. But instead of taking the snowman and putting it in their office or something, owners Rick Anderson and Nancy Simmons decided to donate their check directly to the Operation Sparky Claus program and give the snowman to the next highest bidder. All they wanted in return was a picture with Sparky and the snowman.
“We’re giving people, and we wanted to donate to the community,” Simmons said. “There are people out there who are less fortunate; we were happy to make that bid knowing where the money would go.”
With that, the snowman went to the next highest bidder, which was $500. In total, the snowman helped raise $1,550 for the Operation Sparky Clause program, and that money will go entirely to buying coats for those who need them.
“There is $1,500 going towards those in need,” Simmons said. “It is such a good cause.”
Although the coat buying program has been rather successful so far this year, the toy drive is in need of more donations, according to Chance.
“The toy drop-off has been kind of slow this year,” he said. “We are in need of all ages of toys.”
There are currently bins located at O’Hara’s and the Central Fire Station, and they will be there until Dec. 20, when OFD collects them to distribute to local families.
— To see reporter Josh Vardaman's Twitter feed, go to @CourierJosh