Santa's Express arrives

December 22, 2002 11:00 pm

By SCOTT PESZNECKER

Shannon Solar of Angels Camp has a full-time job but still needed some extra help to make ends meet during the holidays.

On Friday, Solar and hundreds of other Calaveras County residents in similar situations turned to Santa for help.

From town hall in San Andreas, 600 families each picked up a box of groceries, toys and clothing at Santa's Express. Each box contained a turkey, eggs, fruit and other food.

Santa's Express is a food basket program put on by the county's Human Resources Council.

"This is awesome," said Solar, 27, as she loaded food into her car. "(The program's volunteers) are great people, real friendly.

"It makes a big difference — it's a great help."

For Thanksgiving, the program also distributed 600 boxes of food to families.

Christmas music played softly over the building's stereo system Friday as program recipients filed inside to pick up their goods.

Upstairs in the town hall, hundreds of toys were sorted by age groups on long tables, while clothing was sorted by age group up on the stage.

Food distribution happened in the basement. Several bags of food were ready for families to take, and volunteers helped the families collect other food items and carry it.

San Andreas resident Paul Richard Stevens was among a group of volunteers from the American Legion Post in Valley Springs.

"This comes from the heart, not the head," Stevens said as he directed families toward the food pickup area.

Ardeth Rhodes, a Valley Springs resident, has volunteered for Santa's Express for the past 11 years.

"It's just a neat thing to do," she said. "It's grown from so few boxes to 600. It's been fun to watch it grow and help more people."

Students from Sierra Ridge Rite of Passage near Calaveritas helped program recipients tote their goods to their vehicles.

Angels Camp resident Tiffany Lynn, 18 — who pushed her 4-month-old sister, Kassidy, in a stroller — said she was pleased with everything about the program.