Photos by Chad Hobbs| The Meade County Messenger
Cheryl Dial, Jimmy’s wife, and daughter, Brittnee, stand in front of all the toys donated, holding a picture of Jimmy.
Last Thursday evening, the Knights of Columbus Hall in Vine Grove was abuzz. There were 140 large, cardboard boxes lined across tabletops in the central room with signs every so often identifying family sizes and the number of each food item that was to go in every box. A side room housed more tables with canned goods and other food items ranging from green beans to macaroni and cheese, stacked almost as tall as the tables themselves. The food was sorted into groups by type, and a small army of adults, teenagers and children descended on the tables, filling shopping carts with the food. They then went up and down the rows of tables, divvying up the items between the boxes. Within an hour, the mountain of food had disappeared into their temporary cardboard homes, awaiting delivery to needy families across small towns in southern Meade County and northern Hardin County. Each family would receive a turkey or whole chicken, along with all the sides and fixings to make a delicious Christmas meal. All that remained to do outside of delivery was the following day fruit would be picked up to also put in the boxes and there was still a small mountain of toys to be divided amongst the boxes also. There were 140 families in Garrett, Flaherty, Stith Valley, Vine Grove, Radcliff and Rineyville who would soon have their Christmas brightened up by these boxes of joy. So where did all these toys come from?
Well, the story begins back in 2014. Prior to that year, Jimmy Dial, owner of the Flaherty Bar, had been hosting part of a poker run for Toys for Tots at his establishment every year. Despite it being a worthy cause, he did not like the fact that the toys left the community. He wanted to do something to help children in his own community, who were often overlooked by large organizations. That year he began working with Danny Greenwell, a member of the Knights of Columbus council out of Vine Grove. The Knights had been delivering food baskets to the needy in Meade and Hardin Counties for some time, and from that year on, Dial would start collecting toys at his bar to add to those baskets each Christmas. By his second year, he collected 140, and it has increased every year since, with 2016 bringing in 60 new bicycles, 2017 saw 300+ toys, 2018 climbed to 316 and last year saw the largest year yet with 407 toys being donated to the KC Hall. Each year, he had a theme with his donations such as: bicycles, balls and board games.
“That’s one thing about the toys; Jim always said he didn’t want the electronic, hand held stuff,” explained his wife, Cheryl. “He always wanted to get the kids things like board games to involve the family. One year, it was games for outside; anything to get kids outside and active.”
After crossing the 400 toy mark last year, Dial set a goal to raise 500 gifts for the children this year. Sadly, however, just a few weeks after he announced the coming toy drive in late October, Dial passed away on Nov. 8. Determined not to let his legacy end, Cheryl along with employees, friends and the community rallied around the toy drive to ensure Jimmy’s toy goal would be met. When the final tally was made on Dec. 13, the day the Knights of Columbus came to pick them up, not only had 838 gifts been donated for area children, but they needed assistance from patrons at the bar to help haul the product of Flaherty’s overwhelming generosity back to their hall.
“Everybody was like let’s just blow that goal out of the water,” Cheryl said.
Then, last Monday, it was brought to Cheryl’s attention that the Knight of Columbus were about 1,000 cans short of meeting their goal for food needs. Due to the pandemic, many of the donation avenues for the food were not available. Three days and three truckloads of food later, Flaherty Bar delivered again to the point that by the time I arrived Thursday evening, Greenwell said that they had been overwhelmed with donations to the point it was turning out to be the best year ever. There had been $1,505 sent to the Knights of Columbus is Jimmy’s name, 838 gifts for children, countless food items and an additional $149 for food Cheryl brought them that night. Pretty impressive for a small, rural community like Flaherty.
“Every year we were trying to beat the year before, and we were doing it,” said Greenwell of working with Dial each year. “Now this year they have doubled it. I don’t know what you (Cheryl) are going to do next year.”
“Start early,” she quipped back.
On top of actual toy donations, there was $2,482 in cash donated that Cheryl used to shop for part of the gifts. Greenwell had told her that one of the things they needed was gifts for the older children. She picked up cologne, perfume, make-up kits, jewelry making kits, earbuds and portable Wi-Fi speakers for this age group. One of the best parts of the evening was when I walked over to look at the toys that had been collected. Three young teenagers who were volunteering that evening were looking through the makeup kits, ogling over how nice the kits were and talking about how much better they were than their own.
“This was very important to Jim,” Cheryl said. “He loved Christmas.”
Though he wasn’t able to see the overwhelming outpouring of generosity that was made in his name this year, Jimmy Dial is surely smiling down from Heaven, and his legacy will continue to live on, especially every Christmas, for some time to come.