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Ralph’s Place patrons wrap up toy drive

By Staff | Dec 18, 2015

The bags of toys were piled up alongside the side wall, all 100 of them, waited to be wrapped, put back in their bags and given to needy children throughout Cape Coral.

On Monday, that’s what the volunteers, servers, customers and friends did at Ralph’s Place as the tables were loaded with wrapping paper and tape for the annual wrapping party at the Cape Coral Parkway bar.

The people who helped raise money throughout the year came to help wrap the presents, and judging by the sheer volume of bags, it promised to be a long night, but certainly worth it.

Linda Meulenberg was one of many who wrapped presents as a way to help the kids and she said she plans to do it again in the future.

“Every kid deserves a present, so if I can help the community, it’s a good thing to do,” Meulenberg said. “This is new for me, but it will be an annual thing.”

Nicole and Bob Burns, who have owned Ralph’s Place for three years, have carried on the tradition the previous owners started more than a decade ago, giving back to the community by giving children in need and their families a Christmas they will never forget.

“All year long we raise money and adopt as many possible kids as we can. This year it’s 100. Last year it was 86. We’re raising more money every year,” Nicole said. “We raised about $5,500.

The money was raised from proceeds from Tuesday night Bingo and raffles during the football season on Sundays. It is a process that begins almost as soon as the previous Christmas concludes.

Susie Saverd, has been wrapping presents at Ralph’s for 10 years when different owners ran it.

“It’s for children. I want them to have a nice Christmas. I donate my own money and do different fundraisers here like raffles during the football season,” Saverd said.

Samantha Kovarcik, who works at Ralph’s, said this is her favorite time of the year, the event in particular.

“It’s such a great cause and tradition we do every year. It’s given children a Christmas they would have had,” Kovarcik said. “It’s a great feeling.”

Ruth Geyer, Samantha’s customer, was happy to help, as were her grandchildren, Presley Hanson and Aryonna Diaz, both 9. They were outside on the deck wrapping.

“We like to wrap gifts for people who don’t get a lot of things for Christmas,” Diaz said. “I’ve done this for four years.

“I like doing it for the kids because Santa can’t get to everybody,” Hanson said.

Local schools’ guidance counselors contact them and give them a list of kids in need. Nicole gets a list of what the kids like and what their interests are, as well as shoe sizes and ages. She does all the shopping and the kids end up getting about nine gifts each, and not just toys, but also clothing, shoes and other items, Nicole said.

“It’s nice to give back to the community. It’s why we do it and enjoy doing it,” Bob said.

“I got a ton of cards from the families after Christmas, which isn’t necessary, but it’s nice to see,” Nicole said. “The people here love what it supports. It brings in something for kids in need.”

The Burnses had to cancel a fundraising golf tournament early this year. They said they hope to hold one next year and raise a lot more money.

They have a charity account set up through Fifth-Third Bank that accepts donations throughout the year for those who don’t go to Ralph’s.

They also announced Monday they have also started a donation to the Wounded Warrior Project.

“There’ll be a lot of happy faces come Christmas time. No kid should go without Christmas,” Nicole said.