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Santa's helpers seeking helpers

By SCOTT PESZNECKER

Organizers of Santa's Express, a Calaveras County holiday food basket and gift program, needs more donors and volunteers for its distribution day — Monday, Dec. 22.

Billie Westernoff, food bank coordinator for the Human Resources Council of Calaveras County — the group in charge of Santa's Express — said the program has enough turkeys, milk, butter and other perishables to serve all 600 families on its list.

But, she said, the program is short on canned goods that help fill the food baskets.

She also said the program has received about $5,000 less this year in cash donations.

With less money, Westernoff said recipient families will only be able to choose one piece of clothing and one toy for each of their children. There are 700 children in the 600 families.

"We will still be able to provide baskets, but I don't know if we'll be able to do what we've done in the past," Westernoff said. "We just probably won't give as much."

Jan Hovey, the HRC's public relations representative, said the program has up to 40 volunteers who have helped organize the event. Most of them will help set up and distribute the food baskets in the days before Christmas.

But Hovey said more people are needed to stack, carry and load boxes of food into cars.

Volunteers will spend Dec. 19-21 setting up for the distribution. Food setup is from 8 a.m. to noon on Friday, Dec. 19; packing and sorting will be done from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 20; clean-up will run from noon to 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 21; and distribution day starts with final food packing at 7 a.m. Dec. 22, and pick-ups last until 3 p.m.

"We could use 20 volunteers with good, strong backs, who could help pack and distribute on those days," Hovey said. "For the Thanksgiving distribution, there were definitely not enough people, and the people who were there had to really work hard."

To volunteer, call Carol Curry at 754-4618, or just show up.

Canned foods for Santa's Express can be dropped off in red containers at Mark Twain St. Joseph's Hospital in San Andreas, and at schools and grocery stores throughout Calaveras County.


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