-  After 'Christmas Shopping' on Friday, Dec. 20, Santas elves distributed packages to families on Saturday, Dec. 21

After preparing for the past month, Kiwanis members, Sandy Fire and other community volunteers have brought the Christmas Baskets program to a close.

At 7:30 a.m. Friday, Dec. 20, devoted helpers once again gathered at St. Michael’s Church, 18090 S.E. Langensand Road, for the favorite part of many: Christmas shopping. Not as literal as it sounds, the Christmas shopping portion of the Christmas Basket program entails dividing up the mounds of toys donated by community members and businesses into bags for the families with children to take home.

One or more candy canes and a gift tag, representing the number of children in each family as well, decorated many of the 400 assembled Christmas POST PHOTO: KYLIE WRAY - Sandy Fire helped at Fridays event. Karl Lange, Michael Baker, Captain Scott Howland, Nannette Howland, Lt. Ron Schneider and Laurie Smallwood pose with toys they picked out for children.

Volunteers then grabbed black garbage bags, so children can’t see what’s in the bags when they are brought home, and the gift tags — indicating the child’s age and gender — and set to work.

The mounds of toys — which still does not seem adequate to describe the sheer number of toys — were donated through the generosity of Sandy organizations such as Les Schwab Tire Center, Mt. Hood Athletic Club, Suburban Auto Group and Route 26 Cruisers. Sandy Safeway, represented at the event by Assistant Manager Mike Kauffman, donated a “mere” $3,000 to the program, said Len Tobias, the Christmas Basket program’s co-chairman.

Busy Bees, a Portland organization started in 1994 that provides dolls for girls in need, donated 25 doll boxes to be given away as well. Each box, containing a doll and several pieces of handmade doll-size clothing and accessories, came in a hand-sewn tote bag. by: POST PHOTO: KYLIE WRAY - Many organizations donated toys to the Christmas Baskets, including Busy Bees. Boxes of dolls with handmade clothing were among the toys picked for little girls.

This year, enough gifts were gathered for each child to get two or three gifts, a stuffed animal and a book, donated by Friends of the Library. Mountains of toys lined the walls, each falling into an age appropriate category, ready to be picked out for a boy or girl in need.

After eating treats donated by Tollgate Inn, the troop of volunteers set to filling the bags with baby dolls, trucks, board games, art supplies and much more. There were gifts for the older kids as well. Teens in need got cologne, shaving kits, perfume, makeup, gift cards and clothes. by: POST PHOTO: KYLIE WRAY - In addition to their two to three toys, each childs bag contained a donated book and a stuffed animal.

The finished Christmas boxes and bags of toys were delivered or picked up the morning of Saturday, Dec. 21.

When the work was done, volunteers of all ages shared in a Christmas luncheon. But the room was not all celebration and smiles; there was also a feeling of respect and remembrance for the meal’s former cook, Jim Wolf, who died Saturday, Nov. 30, at age 84.

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