Lombardo delivers toys courtesy of Toys for Tots
By day, he is a mild-mannered engineer for LWT Inc. in New Richmond.
By night, he collects and delivers Christmas toys.
Rick Lombardo has been the U.S. Marine Corps' Toys for Tots coordinator for St. Croix and Polk counties for the past 12 years. He places the red boxes in businesses, offices and other public areas for people to donate new toys.
"I'm up to about 46 places between the two counties," said Lombardo. "I put about 2,000 miles on my truck during the campaign season."
Lombardo said his association with Toys for Tots started when he bought a Harley-Davidson motorcycle back in 1999.
His "hog group" wanted to do a ride for Toys for Tots and give the proceeds to United Way. When another member - a United States Marine -- said that they would need permission to use the organization's name, Lombardo volunteered to fill out the paperwork and send it in.
"That fall I started getting plastic cups, posters, pencils, stickers - all with the Toys for Tots name - and I didn't know why," he explained. "Then I got a call from a trucking company in Minnesota that wanted to drop off a semi-truck load of toys in my front yard."
He said he quickly called Toys for Tots and learned that when he filled out the paperwork for the ride earlier that year, he had also signed up to be the coordinator for St. Croix and Polk counties.
"'Oh, I did?'" he recalled with a laugh.
At that time, there was not a Toys for Tots presence in the area. Since the national organization funnels new toys to each of its coverage areas to supplement donations, Lombardo knew what he had to do.
"If I didn't do it, the toys would be sent somewhere else," he said.
That first year, he solicited businesses and organizations for permission to place boxes during the campaign season: Nov. 1 - Dec. 20. He wrapped and supplied his own cardboard boxes to give to businesses in the beginning, but now he gets boxes ready-to-go from Toys for Tots.
When he picks up the boxes, he and his wife catalog each donation and distribute them to local charities, such as Love Baskets in New Richmond and Somerset.
On the Toys for Tots national website, there is a page specifically for St. Croix and Polk counties where people can make a monetary donation.
"All the toys and money donations stay here in the area," he said.
Last year, Lombardo said he collected 3,331 toys through the boxes and bought an additional 619 with the money donated. Plus the national organization usually sends between 700-800 toys to the area, bringing the total amount to near 4,700 toys distributed to the children in St. Croix and Polk counties for Christmas.
When he buys toys, he usually tries to stick with $20 or less per item.
"That doesn't always happen, but if we use $20 or less we can help more kids," he said. "We got $2,500 to spend at Toys "R" Us and we got seven carts full of toys."
Lombardo, a father of five grown children, said some of the more popular items he has collected have been sleds, fishing gear, action figures and Lalaloopsy dolls.
He does get help from family members and friends to pick up the boxes as they get filled. His daughter, a student teacher in New Richmond, is having her sixth grade class collect toys for the program as well.
During the campaign season, Lombardo puts the rest of his life on hold, including playing with his band, Full Tilt.
"We played the first Saturday of December, but then we don't play again until January," he said with a smile.
Each year he has to re-apply to be the Toys for Tots coordinator. Anyone can apply for the position, even if they just split the coverage area.
As for his own job description, he remains modest.
"All I do is pick up boxes and deliver toys," he said.