The Charlotte Observer, N.C., Joe Marusak column
Dec 25, 2011 (The Charlotte Observer - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
ON LAKE NORMAN The Queen's Landing entertainment complex threw a party aboard its Lady of the Lake yacht last week that would normally have cost those attending a total of $3,000.
The two-hour nighttime holiday cruise included DJ Chip "Chippy Chip" Mullins, dancing and a buffet dinner featuring chef Salvatore Friedel's smoked prime rib, roasted chicken, sauteed spinach, mashed potatoes and desserts.
But this Lake Norman cruise was free to the 120 children and adults who came from as far away as Bessemer City and Charlotte. It was open to anyone who brought an unwrapped Christmas gift valued at $25 or more.
For the second year, Queen's Landing owner Jack Williams threw a bash at his company's expense to collect gifts for the Marine Corps Reserve's Toys for Tots drive for Iredell County families in need.
Queen's Landing employees donated their time helping run the event, as did Capt. Jim Kiser at the helm of Lady of the Lake.
Toys for Tots provided gifts to about 2,500 Iredell County children this year, said Vivian Meletis, who's coordinated the effort for three years. Toys for Tots has been around nationally since 1947 and in Iredell County since 2002, she said.
"If it wasn't for Toys for Tots stepping in, they would have nothing under the tree," Meletis said.
Her son, Sgt. Chad Smith, 28, is a Marine Corps Reservist who served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. Her husband, Pete Meletis, is past Marine Corps League state commandant.
Presents are distributed in Iredell County through community organizations and to the 250 families who applied to Toys for Tots for gifts, Vivian Meletis said.
The gathering aboard the 82-foot Lady of the Lake brought several hundred more gifts, including from 19 dancers ages 11 to 18 from Carolina Dance Explosion in Cramerton.
"In order to perform, they had to bring a gift for a child," said Melody Panter, who co-owns the studio with Christel Harvey.
Antonia Sharp, 15, a sophomore at East Gaston High School brought two Barbie dolls. Alexis Chapman, 13, an eighth-grader at Mountain Island Charter School, donated Transformers, a remote-control car and a Build-A-Bear.
Brad May, 33, was among dozens of adults who also donated to the cause. He is an insurance agent with the Farm Bureau in Denver.
What's important at Christmas, he said, is "not what we can get, but what we can give others."
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