Milwaukee, Wis., Dec 15, 2012 / 01:02 pm (CNA).- An elderly couple walks into Kip’s Inn and hands bar owner Kim Engebregtsen a plastic bag with a Barbie doll in it.
“Oh, thank you!” Engebregtsen said. “I needed this. This was the last thing on the list.”
She hugged the couple and directed them to the bar to enjoy some drinks with other folks from the neighborhood.
The list to which Engebregtsen referred was given to her by Catholic Charities with the Christmas wishes of five families, 27 people total.
“Whatever their wish is, we honor it,” she said, adding that since the bar started collecting gifts for Catholic Charities six years ago, every wish — and more — has been fulfilled.
Engebregtsen said one year a child asked for a bike, and through her collection, got a bike and a helmet. Another asked for a basketball, and he was given a ball and a pump.
“Once the ball goes flat, it’s no good,” she said. “These are kids that don’t have anything, so whatever they ask for, we get.” …
… Engebregtsen’s motivation for gathering the toys stems from having been one of five children in a poor household.
“When we were kids, we were pretty poor,” she said. “We benefited from people’s generosity and actually through the Catholic Church.”
Engebregtsen and her family attended St. Peter Parish, Oshkosh, Wis. and she went to St. Peter School.
“We were able to attend the school without paying tuition,” she said. “The parents of our classmates, they were very generous. They exposed us to things that we wouldn’t have been otherwise exposed to.”
She was grateful for gifts her family had received when she was a child and after growing up, she fell into this toy tradition by accident.
“The first year we collected for Toys for Tots and when I went to go drop (the gifts) off, they said the deadline had already passed so I took them to Catholic Charities and they were really happy to get the gifts,” Engebregtsen said.
Shortly after that, she received a call from then-Archbishop of Milwaukee Timothy M. Dolan, now cardinal, thanking her and asking if he could come to the bar to pick them up.
“It’s exciting that he’d go out of his way to stop at a small neighborhood bar to thank us for what we’ve done,” she said.
On that day she remembered Cardinal Dolan sitting at the bar and ordering a Budweiser.
“He told my bartender not to tell anybody and she said ‘Why? You can’t have a beer?’ And he said, ‘No, don’t tell anyone it’s Budweiser,’” Engebregtsen said, laughing at the memory.
The tradition of the archbishop coming to the bar to receive the toys continues with Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki. (Read more here.)