Middletown bike giveaway teaches ‘it’s better to give than receive’

The gymnasium at the Middletown Area YMCA was converted into a bike store, party room and restaurant Sunday during the 12th annual Louella Thompson Feed the Hungry Project Christmas Toy Giveaway.

A raffle was held for bikes that were donated by BBRents, and while children waited for their tickets to be drawn, they ate free cheese coneys from Gold Star Chili and cotton candy, listened to music played by Greg Hart, jumped around in a bouncy house and had their faces painted by volunteers.

When Deborah Patterson, executive director of Louella Thompson’s Feed the Hungry Project, was asked what she saw when she looked inside the gym, she said: “This is what Christmas is all about. Just giving. Being a servant for God. Helping kids. It’s better to give than receive.”

Thompson died in January 2005. She was 79. Patterson, director for 12 years, said she’s “grateful” to be carrying on Thompson’s legacy.

Thompson, a Middletown resident and hairdresser, established the Feed The Hungry Project out of her home in 1987. Through donations from the community and the help of volunteers, the Dream Center was built on Yankee Road in 1997.

Missy McCall from BBRents said her company donated gifts last year when there were only eight bikes available for raffle. So this year, wanting more children to have bikes, McCall set a goal of 80. She contacted her employees and contractors about donating.

“If you touched our business, we asked for a bike,” she said. “We’re super achievers. They just started pouring in.”

It worked because 122 bikes were donated, and those children who didn’t win a bike, received another door prize. McCall believes those who received a present will be the next generation of givers.

“When you receive a gift as a child, you want to give back as an adult,” she said.

One of those who received a bike was Tabitha Volle, 3, of Trenton. Her mother, Amanda, 39, said the event was “really cool” and she didn’t know bikes were going to be raffled. Now, she said, that’s one less thing she needs to buy for Christmas.

“This is just great,” Volle said after he daughter picked out a bike.

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