Rotary Christmas Baskets delivered to 440 needy Santa Paula families
By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula News
Published: December 28, 2012
Santa Paula Rotary and an army of helpers delivered hundreds of baskets to needy area families early Monday in time to help ensure that all would have a merrier Christmas.
Christmas Basket Program Chairman Rick Cook, Santa Paula’s vice mayor and a real estate agent, said he arrived at the Community Center very early December 24, “about 4:30 a.m.,” to start pots of coffee for helpers and set up long tables for last minute basket packing of perishable food items. “The first helpers showed up at 5 a.m.” and went to work, joined by others who later loaded baskets onto a flotilla of trucks, each assigned a carefully laid out route to maximize the speed of delivery.
The Rotary Club works with supporters - other service clubs and organizations, churches, students, FFA, 4-H and individuals among others - to collect food and gifts for each child in the household. Gifts are selected to match each child’s age and gender.
The cardboard box “baskets” are filled with food, more than enough for Christmas and several meals thereafter. Non-perishables are packed days in advance, then the food items that need refrigeration are added delivery morning.
Volunteers are always happy not only to help collect items for baskets or raise money for same, but also to hop on trucks to help deliver. “We had so many people down at the Community Center, more than enough to help,” said Cook. “Then they all went out and hopped on trailers where needed” to drive through the city and deliver baskets to each recipient family.
Those receiving Rotary Christmas Baskets are Santa Paula households that are pre-screened and qualified based on need. This year there were 440 baskets delivered, down from years past, a situation Cook said Rotary will examine. “We’ve had to cap it at about 500 baskets a year, and, unfortunately,” he believes there were qualified families that somehow fell through the cracks, a situation Cook said won’t be repeated.
Cook thanked those who helped the program run like clockwork: “Everybody that does this has duties they’ve been doing for years... they’d tell you what they needed and you’d get it for them.”
This year the program was “fortunate enough to receive about 1,000 toys from Toys for Tots; the Marines really came through for us and that really helped. And the Santa Paula Fire Fighters Association gave us a nice donation and helped shopped for toys at the last minute... we really appreciate that also.... We have so many great volunteers” who collectively make the program possible.
Cook said his first year as chairman went well: “I was the co-chair last year and if I’m asked to do it again next year, well, I know even more now. It worked... and we really lived up to the expectations of the public, our helpers and supporters, and we have for about 30 years that Rotary has been doing the program.”
Due to the lower number of expected recipients, Cook said, “There was some food left over that was donated to Many Meals, so it all worked out well for everybody... and we’re already planning for next year.”