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Chas Elkins, 31, of Farmington, tries on a glove he received through the Glove With Love drive.
Editor's note: This story is part of an ongoing series intended to promote volunteerism in our community. There are more than 100 programs in need of volunteers. For more information, see the Volunteer! link at daily-times.com.

FARMINGTON -- It was one year ago when Eileen Gerding picked up the phone and called the editor at The Daily Times.

"We want to help," she said. "We think this program is a good way to help children through sports, and we think our father would have liked this."

Mrs. Gerding was responding to a small article published in The Daily Times the day before in which there was a call for donations of baseball gloves that could fit teenagers in need.

The Glove with Love drive already had distributed all of its collected supplies for that size glove, and a local high school coach, Dick Laughlin of Piedra Vista, wanted to spend volunteer time before Christmas with a group of detained teenagers at the county's detention center as a way of positive outreach to them.

The problem was, the group he was trying to help had no gloves.

Mrs. Gerding; her husband, local attorney Dick Gerding; and her brother, Jerry Hutchison; all agreed that this was exactly how the recently created Hutchison Athletic Scholarship Foundation could help local youngsters in a sports-themed manner. The foundation was started in memory of Eileen's and Jerry's father, Floran "Hutch" Hutchison, for whom "The Hutch," or Hutchison Stadium was named.

The foundation contacted a local sporting goods store and told the manager to open an account of $500 for new baseball gloves to be given to the Glove with Love drive.

And so it was. Almost $500 worth of fancy new baseball and girls softball gloves were purchased and soon placed on the hands of needy youth, just in time for Christmas.

***

It is just such a need that the Glove with Love program was started to help address.

The donation drive began with a newspaper column by the editor, asking people to clean out their closets and garages and donate any old gloves at the newspaper. Then, volunteers help repair and clean the gloves and distribute them to children in need.

Yours truly, the editor, has coached baseball for many years and more than once saw kids turn to baseball when they had nothing else in which to turn; and more than once, kids who could not afford a decent glove of their own.

Likewise for many other volunteer youth leaders and coaches, such as Ken Wright, who leads the city of Farmington's girls softball league.

"We get some of the young kids with a plastic glove, and a softball won't even fit in there," he said.

Wright picked up nearly a dozen gloves from the Glove with Love effort last spring and distributed them to girls in need. The collection of gloves he gathered included a few of the new ones left over from the Hutchison Foundation's gift.

"Some of these girls have nothing," he said. "Some of them have their daddy's glove, and it's just too big for their little hands."

He praised the donations and publicly expressed on multiple occasions thanks to the unknown donors from the community and the Glove with Love program. "It will be something that will really help a lot of these kids."

***

The initial column calling for old gloves was published two years ago in December 2006.

Donors responded by the hundreds, bringing glove after glove to the front office of The Daily Times. Along with the gloves came various other boxes and bags of donated baseball equipment.

We normally do not show the faces of the children receiving the gifts because we make every effort to protect their privacy and avoid any possible embarrassment. Some of those receiving the gifts, however, are more than happy to show off their joy and say thanks.

Such was the case with one young man in a wheelchair who played with a local Special Olympics team.

Not knowing what to do with the donated adult-size gloves that were too big for the kids in need, volunteers from the Family Crisis Center visiting the newspaper one day saw a pile of large gloves and said, "You should consider helping the adults who play Special Olympics."

They were right.

A collection of gloves and other materials were donated to the Special Olympics, and the young man in the wheelchair, in his early 30s, had his photo appear on the front page of the newspaper. He became a poster boy for yet another need the Glove with Love effort could help fill.

His Special Olympics team organizer said it was the first glove he had ever owned because normally, what few gloves existed were shared by the entire team, and often with the other team as well.

He was so proud of his first baseball glove, he took the glove home and slept with it.

***

Today, a spare Daily Times storage room holds almost 100 old and ragged baseball gloves, along with a few new ones.

Donated bats, catcher's equipment and other items also litter the floor, but not enough.

We operate by contacting coaches and nonprofit agencies that work with youth, or by them contacting us, and quietly try to fill any needs by offering either a single glove for a single child known to be in need, or a box of supplies if it is someone trying to keep children out of trouble or help them develop a new love of the game, such as at churches and nonprofit agencies.

The gifts have helped children from Bloomfield to Shiprock, and all points in between.

It's all about donations and volunteers.

Speaking of volunteers, local youth have joined the effort.

A member of Farmington High School's Kelly Greens dance team, sophomore Morgan James, offered to help this year, suggesting that other members of the popular dance team would be willing to join her.

Last year and again this year, two members of the Piedra Vista baseball team have signed up to help Glove with Love as their senior project, a required community service project needed to graduate.

These teens volunteer to do things like host a home run derby in which donations are collected as the cost to participate. Or, they offer to help spend an hour or two one Saturday to clean dusty old gloves, help repair them or simply to sort baseballs and softballs into the right boxes.

Members of the community can help by cleaning out their garage or closet and donating that old baseball glove no longer needed at home.

We are working to create an official nonprofit status and organization for Glove with Love that will allow it to accept financial donations with the proper oversight and accountability. Attorney Dick Gerding and retiring Sen. Pete Domenici are among those who have offered their help. It also has garnered attention and interest from other volunteers in places like Kansas City, Denver, Albuquerque and with book publishers in New Jersey.

But until the nonprofit is established and financial gifts can be accepted, we suggest financial donors follow the example set a year ago by the generous administrators of the Hutchison Athletic Scholarship Foundation. You can create an account of any amount at a local sporting goods store and contact us with your wishes, and we will do our best to see them done.

The Glove with Love drive is an ongoing effort, so anyone wishing to donate a glove may do so here at our front office at The Daily Times.

We will be offering donated gifts to nonprofits who assist children and special needs athletes this Christmas, but there also will be a greater need prior to the spring baseball and softball seasons as a new crop of youngsters steps up to the plate, many of them financially unable to buy a glove of their own.

We hope you, too, will step up to the plate.

Troy Turner is the editor of The Daily Times. He can be contacted at P.O. Box 450, Farmington, N.M., 87499; or at tturner@daily-times.com.