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Christmas Is Year-round Affair For Label Lady

December 24, 1986

ALAMOGORDO, N.M. (AP) _ The Label Lady of Alamogordo works year-round to provide Christmas toys for needy youngsters, delivering the holiday treats by pickup truck instead of sleigh.

Linda Tabar collects and redeems food labels from companies that offer toys in return, hoarding hundreds of puzzles, crayons, dolls, stuffed toys and other goodies that light up the faces of children who otherwise would not be visited by Santa.

Mrs. Tabar, 36, began her self-appointed task as Santa’s helper five years ago after helping the Rev. Wilfrid Diamond sort toys donated to St. Jude Mission in this community of 24,000 in south central New Mexico.

″The people of Alamogordo aren’t very affluent and the toys they gave were broken, had missing parts and couldn’t be fixed,″ Mrs. Tabar said in a recent interview. ″I gave Father Diamond my word then that he’d never have to worry about toys again.″

Mrs. Tabar, an avid bargain hunter, began to see possibilities in her coupon clipping.

″For example, Kool-Aid. For 100 points I can get a child a ‘Go Bot’ or a ‘Poseable Pound Puppy,’ these plastic dogs with moveable arms and legs.

″Cheerios offers a large boomerang; Nestle’s Quik used to have baseballs with Steve Garvey’s signature on them; Nestle’s Morsels offers stuffed animals; Del Monte’s last offer was clown banks made of vinyl or plastic. Now they have Country Yumkins.″

Some offers need only product labels, but others require the product code or other symbols, as well as money.

″Campbell’s was offering a wagon that was $14.95 plus labels. That was out of my price range,″ Mrs. Tabar said.

The costs can mount, though, even if the toys are free.

″Last year I spent about $600 in postage. This year it’s more,″ Mrs. Tabar said. ″But for what the children are getting, it’s well worth it.″

What began as a one-person crusade grew when Mrs. Tabar wrote last year to newspapers across the country.

″I wrote Christmas cards and I just explained to them what I was doing and if they had any extra room in their papers to please mention it,″ she said.

Soon she began receiving replies from readers.

″I’ve received letters from shut-ins that send me one label and they feel they’ve accomplished something,″ Mrs. Tabar said. ″A lady from Skeet, Texas, sent me a box of toys she and her husband won at the county fair.

″I got a letter from Texas addressed to ’Linda Tabar, The Label Lady.″

Mrs. Tabar’s toys go to children in Alamogordo and El Paso, Texas, 80 miles to the south.

″Linda’s contribution has been tremendous, especially in the last two years,″ said Alicia Petry, who directs an El Paso learning center run by the Guardian Angel Church. ″We give toys to about 200 children ... who would otherwise not get on anybody’s list.″

Diamond said about 100 needy children in Alamogordo get the toys.

″We give them to everybody - any kid who needs it. I don’t know how she does it,″ he said.

Mrs. Tabar also helps youngsters at the Children’s Diagnostic Center in Ottine, Texas, near San Antonio, through an exchange of labels with an El Paso woman.

″Linda puts so much love into this,″ Mrs. Petry said. ″Last year, she and her husband came down with a pickup truck full of toys.″

Mrs. Tabar, an only child, said she’s always loved children. She and her husband, Tony, have adopted two sons, Gary, 11, and Phillip, 6 months.

This Christmas, the couple got a special gift.

″After 18 years as an infertility patient,″ she said, ″For the first time in my life I’m pregnant.″

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