’Tis The Season To Be Giving

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If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap,” a Chinese proverb goes. “If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.”

This holiday season, local residents are being given the opportunity to grab lifetime happiness through local charitable organizations which benefit underprivileged children, families and the elderly all across the Rim country.

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“This is going to be a challenging year,” said Santa’s List co-founder Brenda Martell, “Our fund-raising is down ...and we’re expecting more family registrations.

One of the longest running charities is the 15-year-old Santa’s List, which last year supplied toys and gift packages to 798 of Rim country’s less fortunate residents ? 764 children aged 17 and under, and 34 indigent seniors.

“For us, this is going to be a challenging year,” said Brenda Martell, one of the drive’s founders. “Because of the Rodeo-Chediski fire, we had no Fourth of July, so we lost our major fundraiser: selling glow-ropes. So our fundraising is down this year. And because the town’s overall economy is down, too, we’re expecting more family registrations.”

Donations to Santa’s List, Martell said, “can be anything that would be appropriate for those target age groups. We have drop boxes, each marked ‘Santa’s List,’ at Bashas’, Safeway, Mazatzal Casino, Rim Country Kids and Rim Country Mall.”

What Martell and her fellow volunteers are especially hoping to see in those boxes this year are items for teenagers.

Santa’s List is a 501(c)3 tax-deductible organization, so any donations you make benefit you not only Christmas-spiritually, but financially as well.

“This year, we’re also registered at the Internet website www.escrip.com. If you go online, pull up that site, and register your Safeway member card, your credit cards or your Chevron gas card, then two percent of everything you spend with those cards will automatically be given to us ? and it doesn’t cost you a dime. The money comes directly from those corporations to us. That’s a really easy way to support our organization without it costing you any money.”

There also are many local businesses that are putting together their own promotions to benefit the toy drive, Martell said.

“The Homespun Memories Scrapbook Store, for example, has a program where, for donations of $1 to $5, your name is entered in a drawing for a giant gift basket. And that money goes directly to Santa’s List, too. It’s a great promotion.”

To be a recipient of toy donations from Santa’s List, families or individuals are required to register through the Community Christmas program at the Arizona Department of Economic Security near Subway from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., starting Monday, Dec. 2, through Friday, Dec. 13.

“When people sign up, we take some basic financial information, and find out the number of children in the family and what their ages are,” Martell said. “That same information is then used by the Payson Police Department’s toy program, the Sheriff’s Department toy program, the Payson Optimist Club’s Christmas food drive, and many of the adopt-a-family programs in town.”

Any names which are not adopted, she said, automatically become eligible for the Angel Tree Program, which is also operated by Santa’s List volunteers.

“When people register their children, we ask for any special needs or requests,” Martell said. “We then write those items on angel decorations which are placed on several Angel Trees. Regular folks can take one of those and buy that gift ? or any gift for that child. They then bring the gift back to the Angel Tree location, and we make sure it gets distributed with the child’s other toys and food.”

Angel Trees can be found in Planet Video, Country Kitchen, Rim Country Kids at Sawmill Crossing, St. Philips Church. Energy West and Wal-Mart.

The Santa’s List folks are also behind the Santa Bank ? a mailbox painted to look like Santa Claus, into which donations of cash and checks can be deposited. Right now, Martell said, the Santa’s Bank location is alternating between Planet Video and the Sawmill Theatres lobby.

Donations also can also be mailed to Santa’s List, P.O. Box 1642, Payson, 95441.

Santa’s List and its related fund-raising efforts are all designed to help people “who may be squeaking by every month, paying their bills, but not have any extra money left over for Christmas,” Martell said. “Anyone can sign up if they meet the qualifications, and they’ll find out right on the spot when they register.”

Distribution of the toys and gift items will take place Dec. 23 at the Rim Country Mall.

For more information on how you can help the Santa’s List effort this year, call Scott Smith at (928) 474-5853.

More opportunities to give

Other local charitable organizations in need of donations, volunteer helpers and deserving folks include:

  • The Rim Country Optimist Club has taken over the annual Community Christmas Food Drive, formerly operated by the Payson Lioness Club. Canned goods are being collected to provide a hearty Christmas for families in need. The Rim Country Mall will be the main holding site this year, but there are several drop-off locations around town: Payson Perk, Safeway, Bashas’ and Wal-Mart will have decorated boxes for contributions. The goal for this year is to serve at least 400 families. As with Santa’s List, applicants will be qualified at the Arizona Department of Economic Security from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. now through Dec. 13. Distribution will be 9 a.m. to noon, Monday, Dec. 23 at the Rim Country Middle School. For more information or to volunteer, call (928) 595-0406 or (928) 468-7516.
  • The Payson Canned Food Drive. This is a combined effort of the Rim Country Rotary-Payson. The current goal is to collect 15,000 canned and non-perishable items, and the generous-at-heart can help by dropping their donations into the marked barrels located at Bashas’ and Wal-Mart. The drive will last until the day after Thanksgiving. Any goods not used for home distributions will be given to the local food bank. Monetary donations can be mailed to Rim Country Rotary-Payson, P.O. Box 703, Payson, AZ. 85547. For more information, call Rev. Robert Elliott at (928) 468-8439.
  • The St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank. Powered by volunteers, this food bank helps about 90 families per week, and 350 to 400 local families each year ? many of those during the holiday season. Food items are selected and distributed according to the ages of children in the family, and it can be delivered to those without transportation. The Food Bank, at 511 S. St. Phillip’s St. on the grounds of St. Philip’s Catholic Church, is open from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. For more information, call (928) 474-9104.
  • The Payson Police Department’s Law Enforcement Christmas for Kids Toy Drive also is sponsored by the Department of Public Safety and the Gila County Sheriff’s Office. To donate money or brand new toys in their original packaging, or for more information, call Officer Matt Van Kamp or Officer John Heflin at (928) 474-5177.
  • The 14th Annual Tamales for Toys gala will unfold Saturday, Dec. 7, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., once again at Custom “S” Welding on Oxbow Estates Road south of Payson. Trade a new, unwrapped toy for a child five to 12 years old for some tasty, homemade tamales. The toys will be turned over to the Payson Police Department’s holiday gift distributors. For more information, call Don or Silvia Smith at (928) 474-9609.
  • Those who go to Mazatzal Casino to donate brand new toys ? complete with original packaging and price tag and costing $10 or more ? will find that there is virtually no difference between giving and receiving.

“Starting the day after Thanksgiving, we will give those people a $10 match buy-in coupon,” Farrell Thompson, the casino’s director of marketing, said. “In other words, when you give one of our cashiers $10 for a roll of quarters, she will give you back $20 in quarters for slot play. And if you are a bingo player, you can show that match-play coupon to our bingo staff and receive a free bingo dauber ? and then turn the coupon in for their cash award.”

Gamers over the age of 18 can take advantage of this offer once per day, per person, Thompson said.

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