93-year-old Quad Cities icon gave back through toy drives

Vera Nickolas was a Quad City icon, most notably for her involvement in the toy drives that were organized by the Disabled American Veterans Association
Published: Nov. 17, 2023 at 10:32 PM CST
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DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - A 93-year-old Quad Cities woman is responsible for years worth of kindness and joy in the lives of countless children during the 70s and 80s.

Vera Nickolas is a local icon, most notably for her involvement in the toy drives that were organized by the Disabled American Veterans Association every Christmas.

“She really is the unsung hero of Davenport and the Quad Cities,” her granddaughter, Alexandra Nickolas-Dermody, said.

Nickolas spent countless hours dedicating her time to others.

“She touched thousands of lives throughout her life,” Nickolas-Dermody said. “And most of them probably never even thought twice and so I guess it’s just really incredible to think how just one woman was able to affect so much in the community and do so much good.”

One of those dedications is being able to give back to children with a toy drive.

“Came up with the idea to collect reading stamps, and turn them in for toys,” Nickolas said. “And then the Disabled American Veterans helped sponsor it.”

The toy drive went on for nearly a decade, growing each year.

“They expanded and expanded,” Nickolas said. “And then they delivered them to the various homes that needed toys. And then the groups with sponsors, the toys, a lot of people would give toys other than this training stamp toys.”

Her granddaughter is inspired by her grandma’s efforts, who she says helped over 4,000 kids have a great Christmas.

“And she didn’t expect to be paid,” Nickolas-Dermody said. “She didn’t expect a thank you. She spent hours down there wrapping presents, and, you know, hauling them out and making sure they got to where they needed to go just because she wanted children to be happy for Christmas.”

For Nickolas, it wasn’t about being acknowledged.

“I didn’t do it for recognition,” she said. “I did it because I wanted to do it. So I mean, I didn’t want any recognition. I did of course but I didn’t get paid. I was definitely a volunteer. So it was just important to me that I was able to do something.”

Not only was she involved with the toy drives, but Nickolas was also a board member of the Scott County Humane Society, helped start the spayed and neutered program for cats, and taught young kids kindness with animals.

She said the secret to living a happy, healthy life is pasta, cats and a glass of wine every day.