Santa Paula Times

These toys were distributed by the Rotary Club during their annual Christmas Basket program. Photo by Brian D. Wilson

Rotary Christmas Baskets bring joy to more than 400 needy families

January 02, 2008
Santa Paula News
By Peggy Kelly Santa Paula TimesMore than 400 needy area families had a Christmas to remember when the Rotary Club of Santa Paula and its army of supportive “elves” delivered baskets of goodies throughout the city on December 22.“We did 420, plus or minus one” basket said Co-Chair Paul Smith, who organized the event with Gary Nasalroad. But, Smith noted, “With so much cooperation it’s a community event... Rotary spearheads it but it’s a community event the way I look at it. Between the schools and the churches and the civic groups and the youth groups - Briggs 4-H collected 1,000 cans of food - and the police and fire departments, as well as generous donors,” the decades old program benefited from the strong local support.This year’s program had some challenges, such as paying “particular attention to make sure that the 12 to 14 year olds were not forgotten” when it came to gifts suitable to the age group.Basket delivery day drew about 130 volunteers to load the trucks and deliver the baskets. “We had 50 show up on the Thursday before to help assemble and fill the baskets,” actually cardboard boxes, and Smith said “We were finished early. In Rotary we have the motto ‘Service Above Self,’ and this event is very good at portraying that.”Nasalroad said that the support offered by the community was notable. “We just had a wonderful turnout again,” including the early Saturday morning before Christmas, when Rotarians and volunteers “rolled out with 17 truck beds of baskets and toys.”
Delivering the baskets to the families - who are prescreened to confirm need - creates Christmas memories of its own. “People were expecting us, they were standing outside their doors waiting,” said Nasalroad. “It’s a very gratifying thing” to help those in the community who, without the basket program, would not have been able to celebrate the holiday - including toys for the children.“It’s the gratitude that they show when we show up... everyone was very gracious and welcoming and very appreciative” of the efforts of Rotarians and program supporters “at this particular time of the year. There are so many people in the community that help bring this about... it’s a nice feel good thing that we do in our community.” And that included being able to distribute even more food to larger families.Nasalroad said that one aspect of the Rotary Christmas Basket Program is “amazing... how efficiently the program still runs after all these years,” from basket qualifying conducted by the Boys & Girls Club of the Santa Clara Valley to the actual collection of items - including an estimated 1,200 toys - and distribution of the baskets using maps carefully routed by Rotarian Norm Wilkinson.Nasalroad said he is “relieved that it’s over and glad that it went as successfully as it did.” The 2007 Rotary Christmas Basket Program proved again that “everyone who were participants were glad to help out,” to share in the joys of the season.