Santa's Helpers Distribute Food And Toys

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The season of giving just wrapped up for the men and women who spent countless hours helping out the local toy and food charities.

Wednesday morning, dozens of volunteers handed out food boxes and sacks of toys to Rim country families who, for the most part, would have gone without.

With most of the fund-raising and food gathering long over, workers from both the Payson Lioness Club and the Santa's List spent this past week sorting, packing, bagging and boxing the donations.

Those charitable souls ventured out in the pre-dawn hours Wednesday to place the perishable food items in the Lioness food boxes before distribution started at 7:30 a.m.

Jan Parsons, the Lioness coordinator for the food baskets, said her organization provided food for 221 families this year. "That's down a little from previous years," she said.

"We had tremendous help from Bob DePugh and the guys from the Sanitary District," Parsons said. "We had the food loaded and ready to go in about 45 minutes."

Earlier in the week, Santa's List members were expecting to serve fewer families this year, based on registration at the Arizona Department of Economic Security. By the time the last package was delivered Wednesday afternoon, that number fell right in line with previous years.

"This year, we gave toys and bikes and stuffed animals out to 405 children," said Santa's List member Melissa Petkoff. Last year, the group bought toys for 380 children.

This was Petkoff's first year with the children's charity. She said the experience was both fun and humbling.

"It's sad to see so many people that would be going without all of this," she said. "This experience, helping with all of the toys, has really taught my children a lot about the meaning of Christmas."

Brenda Martell, a long-time driving force behind Santa's List, said she was impressed at the variety of people that gave of their time this year. "We had high school kids and college students helping," she said. "It was wonderful to see that the kind of work Santa's List and the Lioness try to do here touches everyone."

After a year of fund-raising, toy shopping, and organizational nightmares, in the end it's the spirit of giving that keeps people like Martell coming back.

"This afternoon, I delivered a package to probably the most run-down looking apartment building in town," she said. "When I knocked on the door, it opened, and I was looking at four of the most adorable little children you've ever seen, and they were living in an apartment that's probably cleaner than my house.

"We had obviously made their day."

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