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(Above left) Rotary members sort canned goods, getting them ready to place in the Christmas Baskets. The baskets were delivered last Saturday morning. Photo by Debbie Johnson (Above right) Toys are stacked in the lobby of the Santa Paula Community Center, waiting for Rotary members to distribute the toys in the Christmas Baskets. Photo by Don Johnson

Rotary delivers Christmas Baskets

December 29, 2006
Rotary Christmas Baskets bring Christmas to 400-plus needy SP families
Santa Paula News
By Peggy Kelly Santa Paula TimesSanta Paula Rotarians and community supporters made Christmas brighter for 429 needy area families when baskets filled to the brim with holiday goodies were delivered early Saturday morning.“Everything went great with the delivery,” noted Rotary Christmas Basket Program Co-Chairman Paul Smith of the annual event that provides plenty of food and those oh-so-important toys to households throughout the city. Smith said that 18 trucks, including a Santa Paula Fire engine, and “probably 100 people helping to drive and deliver worked like clockwork” after meeting at the Community Center at 6 a.m. Saturday morning. “There was a lot of experience, a lot of veterans there,” whether Rotarian or supporters who have made the annual program a holiday tradition.Smith noted that the community donations were stupendous: “We had about 12,000 cans of food donated this year!” that provided 25 to 30 cans per basket. “We ended up with about 2,000 toys” that delighted more than 1,000 kids, who received presents selected especially for them.Smith echoed the sentiments of others who volunteered holiday cheer - from helping garner donations to contributors to those who spent time packing the boxes to the delivery crew - when he noted that “It’s a wonderful experience. I’m elated over the community interest and support and the participation. It’s a tremendous things for the Rotary Club and the community, genuinely rewarding” for all who took part. “Everyone involved showed that they take pride in doing something good for the community.”The spirit of Christmas was much in evidence by the cheerfulness of volunteers, and “How supportive they were to do this.... Captain Steve Lazenby - who was with his grandchildren in the fire engine - said he wants to make their participation an annual tradition.”
Some Rotary Christmas Basket recipients were waiting in the street when the delivery trucks pulled up, their living quarters reflecting their poverty and how much the gift was not only appreciated but vital to the family’s holiday celebration. “People were delighted to see us, absolutely,” said Smith, but the program would not have been possible without the wide support and effort on the part of the Santa Paula community.“The Boys & Girls Club does an outstanding job of screening” to determine families with the strongest needs and then compiling the qualified applicants. Norm Wilkinson for years has “sat at his computer and goes over the lists and does a tremendous job on the routing,” so that the baskets are delivered with optimal efficiency.There are so many that contribute to the Rotary Christmas Basket Program, noted Smith. “It was a wonderful experience and I’m amazed at the help, people just jumping in and doing it. I look forward to doing it again, although not necessarily as the co-chair” with Rotarian Otto Schimmel, who also “did a tremendous amount of work. It was just a wonderful effort on the part of so many generous people.”