Santa Paula Times

Rotary counting on community to fill record number of Christmas Baskets

December 02, 2009
Santa Paula News

The Rotary Club is counting on the community to help them fill a record number of Christmas Baskets to ensure that hundreds of needy Santa Paula families will enjoy the holiday.

By Peggy KellySanta Paula TimesThe Rotary Club is counting on the community to help them fill a record number of Christmas Baskets to ensure that hundreds of needy Santa Paula families will enjoy the holiday. According to 2009 Christmas Basket Chairman Scott Rushing, the effort is “like an octopus, the tentacles going in every direction” with the planning of food and toy donations and signups of those receiving the baskets who must undergo a screening to qualify.Rushing said the club’s goal of 500 baskets “Will be an all-time record.... Last year we gave away 475 baskets officially, and we’re trying to raise that to 500.”The first time Rushing was involved in the Rotary Club Christmas Basket program, “back in the 1980s, there were about 200 baskets” distributed to needy families. “It seems like a lifetime ago” and, he noted, “things have changed... the need is much greater. It was easy then, now it’s quite a process,” with families undergoing a careful pre-screening to ensure the neediest receive the baskets, which include plenty of food as well as a special gift - based on age and gender - for each child in the household.Rushing said those involved with the family pre-screening for Christmas Basket program find “It’s pretty emotional at times... you see the looks on their faces and you can tell they won’t have anything unless we show up with a basket with food and toys. For the volunteers it’s pretty motivating.”Volunteers and motivation are synonymous when it comes to the program: Future Farmers of America and the Rotary Interact Club collect food and toys, and the Isbell Middle School Cancer Crushers - the American Cancer Society Relay for Life team - is planning a giving program with Santa Paula Elementary School District teachers. And “Briggs School teachers are each going to buy a toy and donate it” in addition to the school’s Christmas Basket donation drive, Rushing said.
Throughout Santa Paula, individuals, service clubs and organizations, churches, Scouts, mobile home parks and businesses support the program, and Rushing said such help is especially needed this year. “The club is trying to step up” to the challenge of filling the 500 baskets, but, vowed Rushing, “we’re going to do it.”Rotarians and volunteers will be filling boxes with frozen chickens, canned goods, rice, beans, potatoes, and fruit, as well as toys and books for the children. Rotarians and community members will load up trucks and deliver baskets early on the morning of December 24.“The success of the program is largely dependent on the generosity of the community,” said Rotary Past President Maria Bombara. “Students, churches, Scout troops, clubs, and mobile home parks have all contributed in the past and are asked again to help your fellow Santa Paulans in need this Christmas season.”Collection points for canned goods and toys have been established at Santa Paula Fire Station #1, 114 S. 10th St.; Fire Station #2, 536 W. Main St.; Santa Paula Police Department, 214 S. 10th St.; Santa Clara Valley Bank, 901 E. Main St.; Rushing Real Estate, 120 Dean Dr.; Santa Paula Community Bank, 537 W. Harvard Blvd.; and Curves, 922 E. Main Street. Donations will also be accepted at the Santa Paula Community Center at 530 W. Main St. on Tuesday afternoon, December 22nd.For more information on donations to the program, please contact Rushing at (805) 525-3417 or Elias Valdes at (805) 525-6792. Rushing can also be contacted if you would like to help assemble boxes with food and toys.Monetary contributions may be given to any Santa Paula Rotary Club member or mailed to Rotary Club, P.O. Box 809, Santa Paula, CA 93061. Please make all checks payable to Santa Paula Rotary Christmas Basket Fund. You may also access our website at