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updated: 6/29/2012 7:47 AM

Family looks for 'Made in America'

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  • From left, Gary King and his family, Gideon, 4, wife Tommera, Emersen, 2, and Leo, 8, play in their yard in Danville. The Kings are part of the American Made Matters movement that's growing in the nation.

    From left, Gary King and his family, Gideon, 4, wife Tommera, Emersen, 2, and Leo, 8, play in their yard in Danville. The Kings are part of the American Made Matters movement that's growing in the nation.
    Associated Press

Associated Press

DANVILLE-- When Tommera and Gary King of Danville take their three children to toy stores, they sometimes get strange looks from other shoppers.

These parents have taught their children to turn each toy upside down to verify that it's been made in America before they will even consider purchasing it.

The Kings are part of the American Made Matters movement that's growing in the nation, and they've tried hard to buy American products ever since their oldest son, Leo, was born eight years ago. Their other children are Gideon, 4, and Emersen, 2.

Tommera explained every item sold must indicate where it was manufactured. "Sometimes you have to really search to find where a product was made," she added. "It's usually on the sku tag, but sometimes you have to look closely."

She said consumers cannot go strictly by the brands, because even though the packaging might read "Made in the U.S.A.," the product itself may have been manufactured in another country.

"I feel we are a very patriotic family," Gary said, "and we're trying to do our part to keep America strong for our children." Since he's been in the manufacturing business for 11 years, Gary knows that most companies deal with a host of sub-vendors on a regular basis. He works at ThyssenKrupp in the Machining Division, and he's proud that his company is very American-friendly when making purchasing decisions.

Tommera said statistics show that if Americans took out of their homes everything that wasn't made in the United States, many would be left with empty houses. She added that even with all their efforts to buy American, only about 50 percent of the items in their own home are completely made in America.

"I definitely believe the quality is better in American-made products," she said, "because so many other countries have the throwaway mentality. Here in the United States, we take pride in the quality of what we produce."

The couple agreed that American-made products are usually more expensive, but they feel strongly that these products also are better quality because this country has higher standards and stricter regulations.

"Once we started having kids I realized that the majority of baby products are made elsewhere," Tommera said. "You can't find any little girl's jewelry that isn't made in China, which could mean that lead paint was used. And the majority of candy that kids love to eat, and even Christmas decorations and the American flag are made overseas."

Tommera buys most of the family's clothes online or from rummage sales so she doesn't contribute her dollars to other countries a second time.

Tommera has operated her own business -- Lasting Impressions Photography -- out of her home since 2003, and she started taking photos at age 13. Her specialty is portrait photography, and she will even photograph newborn babies at their homes.

"I have a virtual studio on wheels that I take around for the convenience of the families," she said.

She is a self-taught photographer and keeps up with her profession through online workshops.

Both Gary and Tommera have a lot of family living in town. They expect 70 to gather at Kennekuk Park this summer for his family reunion. Naturally, Tommera is the official family photographer, and she admits to taking tons of photos of her three children.

"Once again I'm frustrated because it's so difficult to find any American-made photography equipment and supplies," she said.

The King family likes to hike the trails at the local parks. They also enjoy biking and playing with the children in their back yard.

"We're very lucky to live in an area with such wonderful park access," Gary said, "and we would love to stay here forever."

Both Tommera and Gary are graduates of Danville High School, and they feel that "Danville is a super place to raise kids."

Tommera and Gary both have a passion for cooking and baking. Gary's grandmother ran the former Sweet Shoppe on East Main Street, and the couple inherited all her pie and dessert recipes. Dutch apple pie and strawberry pie are among Gary's favorites. In addition, his grandparents also owned the former Friendly Café in town.

Tommera is working on her degree in early childhood education from Danville Area Community College. She started out by home-schooling Leo, but decided that he needed more social interaction. He will be attending third grade this fall at Danville Lutheran School, and the family also attends Immanuel Lutheran Church.

"We care about our people in America, so don't want the great American dream moving to Beijing," Tommera said.

She pointed out that by supporting American-made products, people support American jobs and companies and keeping jobs in this country. "The U.S. economic demand is more than 20 percent of the world's total, while our consumers account for nearly 30 percent of the world's consumer spending," she said, adding that America will lose its independence without the ability to produce what we wear and consume.

"Our children's future depends upon our buying American-made products," Tommera said. "Today, the promise of a better life for our children and grandchildren is being threatened."

She added most electronics are made in Japan or China, that Westinghouse TVs are the only ones made in this country, and that even American-made automobiles are built with parts that come from all over the world.

Tommera did say most generic food products are produced in this country, as well as some selected toys and games such as Trivial Pursuit, Monopoly, jigsaw puzzles, and some Crayola crayons.

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