Groups Celebrate Season Of Giving

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Two local organizations made sure as many children as possible got something for the holidays.

A difficult local and national economy has made times tough for families and more people have had to rely on the generosity of the community and local organizations for holiday gifts for their children.

Santa's List and Law Enforcement's Christmas for Kids surprised children with toys this week, who otherwise might have had very little for Christmas. These organizations also gave a helping hand to parents struggling to make ends meet.

Santa's List and Angel Tree

Santa's List began as the Payson Jaycees in 1989 and in 1995 broke off from the Jaycees and formed a separate, nonprofit organization.

Scott Smith has been president of Santa's List for six years.

"When we first started, we were helping about 200 children -- it was a huge need and the need has steadily grown year after year."

Santa's List provided gifts for more than 900 children around Rim country last year.

"This year it was approximately 1,050 kids," Santa's List operations manager Brenda Martell said.

Santa's List has fund-raisers throughout the year to raise money for this season, doing their best to see that no child goes without.

"All year we are out raising money to be able to do this," Smith said.

"We have our lobster dinner, a golf tournament and our Christmas in July program," Martell said. "We also sell the glo ropes during the Fourth of July."

Monday morning, families came from all over Rim country to pick up their gifts at the old Walgreens building.

Santa's List also runs the Angel Tree program.

"Each of the families that qualifies for Santa's List has an angel and on the back they write down what presents they would like and we post them on Christmas trees around town," Smith said. "Then someone can take one of the angels and buy the gifts and put them under the tree for the family."

Smith said he has been touched by people's generosity.

"I've had people come in and write a check for $1,000 for people on the Angel Tree that hadn't been adopted," he said. "It's a tax-deductible donation, too."

To donate or volunteer with the Santa's List Program, call (928) 595-TOYS.

Law Enforcement Christmas for Kids

The Payson police department, fire department, the Gila County Sheriff's Office and the Department of Public Safety network for the same cause -- providing children in need with presents.

The Payson Police department runs the program, Law Enforcement Christmas for Kids, and the other law enforcement agencies and the Gila County Attorney's office help sponsor it.

A couple days before Christmas, a convoy of law enforcement vehicles and, this year, even a big, red fire truck made its way to 40 homes, delivering large bags of presents.

"When we pulled up in front of the Time Out shelter, the whole neighborhood came out to watch," Payson Police Sgt. Rod Mamero said. "It was really something to see."

Payson Police Det. Matt Van Camp is the chairman of the Christmas for Kids committee and has been involved with the program for the past five years.

"I can't even describe how it feels to deliver the presents to the families -- to see the reaction from the kids and the parents," Van Camp said. "This program started off as a bet between a couple of law enforcement people 18 years ago and it's been going ever since, Van Camp said.

"We raise the money for clothes at our golf tournament which was at Chaparral Pines this year," Van Camp said. "They are our biggest donor because they donated food and golfing for our tournament. I'm guessing they donated over $20,000 worth of services to our program this year."

The toys are donated through the Tamales for Toys program started by Town Clerk Silvia Smith and her husband, Don. The Smiths retired after 18 years and retired police officer Charlene Hunt and husband Albert got sponsorship from the Northern Gila County Firefighters Union to continue Tamales for Toys.

The Payson Elks Lodge offered its kitchen to make several hundred tamales that were exchanged for toys.

"The Tamales for Toys program is how we get our toys," Van Camp said. "Then we can spend the other money on things like clothes -- socks, coats, jackets. We spent $9,000 at Wal-Mart last week on clothes for the kids."

Payson Fire Chief Marty deMasi said this is the first year the fire department has participated in the program.

"It was a wonderful thing to do and a lot of kids got stuff and we really appreciate everyone who helped out," deMasi said.

"We are solely funded by local businesses and we absolutely need to give credit to the them," Van Camp said. "There is a core group of about 10 businesses that have sponsored a golf team every year for 18 years and we continue to get more sponsors every year."

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