Tannenbaum Farms workers pool gratuities to help Toys for Tots

Austin Auman, Tyler Long and Max Bair prepare a tree after it was cut at Tannenbaum Farm on Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014.
Austin Auman, Tyler Long and Max Bair prepare a tree after it was cut at Tannenbaum Farm on Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014. CDT photo

Lisa Finley wasn’t sure if she should believe her eyes.

Eight young adults filled several shopping carts with toys Sunday at Ollie’s Bargain Outlet. Surely, she thought, they were too young to be parents.

Finley, of Harris Township, thought about asking who they were shopping for when she passed them in the toy section and when she stood next to them in the check-out area. Her curiosity, however, got the best of her when they loaded their cars, which were next to hers.

“They were younger and loading toys in a few older, beat up cars, and you could only imagine what they could use all those toys for, so I asked,” Finley said. “I never imagined their response, which made what they were doing all the more heart-warming.”

Tannenbaum Farms employees, most of them college students, pool their tips every winter to buy gifts for Toys for Tots. It’s a tradition that began four years ago when the owners’ son, Dan Weidensaul, asked his parents to allow the workers to accept tips — on the condition that they donate to Toys for Tots.

“People would want to give them tips, but they weren’t allowed to take them before then,” co-owner Martha Weidensaul said. “When my son said maybe we can ask them to donate their tips to Toys for Tots we discussed it and decided to do it, because it can make a big difference for kids.”

Some customers have caught on and give employees checks specifically for the charity. Others offer a few dollars, and in the past month employees received $820 for their shopping spree at Ollie’s.

Combined, they’ll give about $1,000 worth of checks and toys to Toys for Tots this year.

Tyler Long, of Gregg Township, and Max Bair, of Potter Township, were two of several employees who did the shopping with their girlfriends.

They have a routine.

“Every year we work for 10 or 11 hours, and then we go out as a group to eat dinner and come up with a game plan for shopping,” Bair, a Penn College freshman, said. “Then we spend the next four hours shopping and trying to find good deals.”

Before clearing the toy shelves at Ollie’s, they went to College Buffet.

“I’ve shopped every year since we started doing this,” Long, a Lock Haven University senior, said. “I love it here, because we’re like a family. We work all year together, and then we get to do this. When you can buy $800 worth of toys for kids in need, that’s good enough for me.”

Long and Bair presented Martha Weidensaul with the toys around the company’s Christmas tree Monday.

“They were standing there with big grins to show me how many toys there were,” Martha Weidnensaul said.

Long and Bair said they don’t do it for recognition, but that doesn’t stop people who know about their good deed from praising them.

“You just hear so many negative things about today’s youth and negative things in general, and to see them doing that just made my day and made my heart so happy,” Finley said. “They were so genuinely excited about what they were doing. I’m so glad I asked.”