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Man, store team up for massive teddy bear haul (video)

By ALLISON MILES
Dec. 8, 2012 at 6:08 a.m.
Updated Dec. 9, 2012 at 6:09 a.m.

American Bank has been holding an annual Christmas teddy bear drive for area children in need for 18 years. This year, when Gary Clendennen bought a teddy bear from Kay Jewelers for the bank's drive, Kay Jewelers gave him 96 bears to donate. Donations to the Victoria American Bank branch benefit the Victoria County Children's Protective Services. American Bank will be collecting bears through Dec. 24th.

Donate bears

American Bank's teddy bear drive spans through Dec. 24. For more information on donating, call 361-576-4886 or visit the bank at 4304 N. Navarro St.

Meet Luke and Logan

For more information on Kay Jewelers' teddy bear fundraiser to benefit St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, visit the Victoria Mall at 7800 N. Navarro St. or call 361-576-5822.

If it's warm fuzzies you're searching for, Victoria's American Bank is your best bet.

With 100-plus soft, smiling teddy bears settled throughout the lobby, it's the fuzziest place in town.

And it started with a man and a store.

Victoria resident Gary Clendennen ventured inside Kay Jewelers in search of a ring for his wife. Upon leaving, he added something else to the tab: a furry white teddy bear.

Kay sells two styles of bears - dubbed Luke and Logan - and donates 100 percent of proceeds to the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

The kid-friendly buy was for American Bank, which also uses teddy bears for good, donating bears collected in Victoria to the area sector of Child Protective Services.

He donates each year, he said, usually trying to offer up the biggest bear of the bunch. This year he offered up his bear Nov. 30, before the drive even began.

But it didn't end there.

When Clendennen went to retrieve his order from Kay and discussed the donation with jewelry employees, they wanted in.

The store first donated four boxes of stuffed animals to the cause. Another eight boxes followed shortly after.

"They may have donated more since then," said Clendennen, who hand-delivered the 12-box haul. "I knew they would help, but I never thought it would be this much."

The furry explosion hit Tuesday, when employees found the toy animals temporary homes throughout the bank, on the Christmas tree, coffee bar and anywhere else they would fit, said J.P. Green, senior business development and lending officer.

Although the bank didn't have an official count, the Kay donation already pushes them past last year's total haul of about 50 to 75 fluffy friends, he said. And it was all within the first week.

He said it felt good to know others were pitching in.

"Christmas is always such a nice time of year, particularly when you can tie something like this to it," he said. "It gives you a warm feeling."

The Victoria Mall Kay Jewelers team is a prime example of the company's commitment to bringing the national St. Jude fundraising campaign to the local community, David Bouffard, a company spokesman, said in an email.

Customers sometimes want to purchase bears but don't have anyone to give them to, he said, so the store collects them and works with the community to offer donations.

"At times, it's a local fire or police department, local children's hospital, or, as in this case, the Child Protective Services," Bouffard wrote, noting the company will share the Victoria store's story with other team members nationwide.

As for Clendennen, he's slow to take credit for the massive teddy bear movement - he's just the middle man, he said - but he said he appreciated the chance to make even a small difference in a child's life.

The Baker Hughes worker teams up with Child Protective Services annually to purchase Christmas presents for children who might not otherwise receive them, he said, attributing that to the seven years spent with the Victoria Police Department Ride-Along program.

"I saw the good and the bad, and the kids that really needed things," he said. "It feels good to do something."

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