The tie-dyed face of the Garcia Beanie Baby bear once brought Ina Rae Levine’s granddaughter Rebecca, an “indescribable joy that lit up her whole face.” Levine still has a photo of this joy; in the picture, Rebecca is 4 years old with a dozen of the trademark stuffed animals sprawled out across the concrete.
“She held one in her hand, and she had the biggest smile on her face, which tells the whole story. Later, it was so important that Rebecca had what other kids had, when she lost her mom,” said Levine, about losing her daughter, Rebecca’s mother, to a fight with cancer. “And so that’s how I got into it,” Ina Rae explains about how she began collecting the Beanie Babies.
Two decades later, with her granddaughters now out of college and working, Levine and her husband are moving into Splendido, an all-inclusive community in Oro Valley, and have recently donated her amassed collection of over 446 Beanie Babies to the local Golder Ranch Fire District, where she knew the stuffed animals could spread the same joy to other children.
“You know that’s all I really wanted, was to send them to somewhere I knew kids would play with them,” said Levine regarding her donation to Golder Ranch, which serves ‘with strong hands and caring hearts,’ according to its motto.
“Golder Ranch Fire District is honored to have been contacted by Mr. and Mrs. Levine and to receive their donation of Beanie Babies,” said Karen Hauca, public educator, Golder Ranch Fire District. “Mrs. Levine stated she had only one stipulation as to where the Beanies are to be distributed and that they were to go to kids. To fulfill her wishes, Golder Ranch Fire District has donated approximately one-third of the Beanies to Catalina Community Services who will use them to encourage kids enrolled in their reading program. Another third went to the Family First Pregnancy Care Center. The last third will be donated to kids but the recipient has yet to be chosen.”
Levine and her husband Bob specified the stuffed animal donation for the Oro Valley community, as this will be their new permanent residence come their move to Splendido this week. “It’s time to participate in the new community that we’ll live in,” she said about their decision to donate to Golder Ranch.
The Levines have always had a legacy of philanthropy in their community, no matter where they lived. In the past, Bob served as the National Treasurer and Vice President of Education on the Jewish National Fund, was Chairman of the Board of the American Zionist Movement, president of his synagogue in California, and much more. Currently, Bob serves on the board of Youth On Their Own in Tucson, a nonprofit organization that serves about 1,400 homeless students and provides them with dormitory-style living, financial assistance, and guidance to pursue their high school diploma.
Aside from Golder Ranch, Levine also plans to donate her complete collection of the twelve Zodiac Beanie Babies to the Tucson Chinese Cultural Center for its annual auction.
Levine still kept about 30 of the stuffed animals for memory’s sake—one that looked like the Boston Terrier the couple used to have, one a Halloween witch she bought for her daughter-in-law, and another bear she bought for her husband among the mix.
“My mom used to tell me something that was really true. ‘There are no pockets in the shroud; you can’t take the money with you’,” said Levine. “So you know, give them to people, and that’s the kindness that makes the world a better place.”