Above, John Kulwiec sorts canned goods before placing them in the Christmas Baskets. Below are some of the hundreds of canned goods distributed by the Rotary Club of Santa Paula

Rotary Christmas Baskets delivered to 400 needy Santa Paula families

December 28, 2001
Santa Paula News
By Peggy Kelly Santa Paula TimesIt was still dark when members of the Santa Paula Rotary Club and their supporters met at the Community Center early Christmas Eve morning to bring holiday cheer to hundreds of area families.And within a matter of a few hours 400 Christmas Baskets - actually large cardboard boxes - had been delivered to needy families who received a turkey and the fixings as well as specially selected toys for each child in the family.“It all went very smoothly,” said Christmas Basket Chairman Peter Lemmon. “. . .not only did all the items get over to the Community Center early, it was all packed and done on Saturday.”Early Monday 16 trucks were packed and then rolled out; the deliveries were completed by 9 a.m.“There were so many kids there, they outnumbered the adults,” helping at the Community Center, said Lemmon.Volunteer efforts had been ongoing: “There were over 6,000 canned goods collected; it was amazing what the Future Farmers of America, the schools and churches had done. . .I was blown away. I was overwhelmed at how smoothly it went, how well orchestrated and the responsibility of the Rotary to accomplish this huge effort. I thought it was going to be a nightmare, but I was basically able to take care of it over the telephone.”
Lemmon said the annual Christmas Basket Program starts early as families undergo rigorous pre-screening to determine financial need.“It’s a great and true community effort, Rotary wouldn’t be able to do it without the community and its support,” he added.One unusual donation came from Dr. Jeffrey Tubbs: “He donated a whole cow he purchased at the Ventura County Fair, so each basket had some beef, a neat addition,” Lemmon noted.Toys For Tots, the Marine-sponsored program, also deserves kudos. “We couldn’t do the program without the Marines who organize it only as the military could. . .it was a beautiful thing to see how it all came together with the so many right toys for the right kids.”Hillview Estates was also among those who stepped forward, donating numerous toys and clothing. “The toys they donated put us over the top,” of what was needed, said Lemmon. “It was wonderful, Santa Paula is wonderful, a real community that takes care of our needy kids at Christmas.”

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