It has been a challenging year for Frank and Karen Kolbaba, the husband and wife who operate 4 KID’s Charity, an organization that works year-round to help children in need. Karen suffered a stroke in February, which has limited the couple’s time to benefit children and families who are facing difficult situations. On Friday, The Fran Haasch Law Group will host a Christmas Toy Drive, and all contributions will be given to 4 KID’s Charity.
The toy drive will take place from noon to 6 p.m. at Haasch’s office at 1275 Nebraska Avenue in Palm Harbor. Food and refreshments will be served, Santa will be on hand and families can see a fire engine from the Palm Harbor Fire Department and have their photo taken with an antique fire truck provided by a private collector.
Toys from the event will be distributed to children at CASA (Community Action Stops Abuse), selected families of students who attend Largo Middle School and a Pinellas County police department.
4 KID’s Charity stands for Kids in Difficult Situations. The 501(c)(3) organization supports children who face wide range of special needs; such as military families in crisis, children facing abuse, mental health issues and poverty.
“We are hoping to get a dramatic response and an abundance of contributions at the Toy Drive and all the way up to Christmas to help make it a happier holiday for the children and families in need,” Frank Kolbaba said.
It marks the sixth year that The Fran Haasch Law Group has hosted a Christmas toy drive. Haasch has long been inspired to help the community because of the remarkable story of her father, Werner Haasch.
Werner Haasch lived in Germany with his parents at the end of World War II. In 1945, he was 6 when Polish soldiers knocked on the front door of his family’s farmhouse and given 20 minutes to leave. They walked 130 miles, and grass was their only food for three days. The family finally settled in another town in Germany but struggled to make ends meet.
“You had to beg for food,” Werner Haasch recalled in a TV interview. “You had to beg for everything. One time I was so hungry I ate some tulip bulbs which made me very sick, and I almost died because of it.”
In desperation, Werner’s mother (Fran’s grandmother) wrote to a longtime friend who had moved to the United States. She was unaware that the friend had died, but the post office forwarded the letter to Ernst and Marcella Radtke, who lived on a small dairy farm in Marion, Wisconsin. The Radtke’s were far from wealthy, but they were rich in generosity.
Though they had never met, the Radtke family mailed care packages to Werner Haasch’s family. The Radtke’s sent soap that was sometimes exchanged for food, and materials for clothes.
“They sent us coffee; they sent us Spam,” Werner Haasch said. “If they wouldn’t have done that, I probably wouldn’t be here today.”
The Haaschs and Radtkes have remained in contact over the years. Ernst Radtke died in 1963, but Werner Haasch met Marcella Radtke in Wisconsin before her death in 1985.
“I could only say thank you,” a tearful Werner Haasch said in the interview. “They came from heaven. I know there are still good people in this world.”
Fran Haasch smiles when she talks about the bond between families who were once strangers. It is why she feels compelled to be part of events like Friday’s Christmas toy drive.