Tamales For Toys Dec. 6

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Cooking 50 dozen tamales takes a lot of space and a big, willing crew of good-hearted people.

Charlene and Albert Hunt found both as they stepped in to coordinate the annual Tamales for Toys project for the Law Enforcement Christmas for Kids program.

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Tamales for Toys coordinator Charlene Hunt gets a face full of steam cooking part of more than 600 tamales she and a crew of volunteers made at the Payson Elks Lodge for the Dec. 6 event sponsored by Northern Gila County Firefighter's Association. The tamale and toy exchange is from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Masonic Lodge.

This weekend the Hunts, their friends and family took over the kitchen at the Payson Elks Lodge, to make the tamales for the Dec. 6 event.

For 15 years, Town Clerk Silvia Smith and her husband, Don, cooked dozens of tamales and exchanged them for new toys that were then donated to the Law Enforcement Christmas for Kids program.

The Tamales for Toys tradition was in jeopardy when the Smiths decided to retire this year.

"I panicked when I first learned that the Tamales for Toys program was being canceled," retired Payson Police officer Charlene Hunt said. Hunt has worked on the Christmas for Kids program for the past 10 years. "Last year, the Smiths donated 800 toys. Losing 800 toys would kill our program."

Hunt and her husband, Albert, began searching for a sponsor to keep the program going.

"We approached the fire department, and after some consideration, the Northern Gila County Firefighter's Association agreed to be the sponsor," Hunt said.

Finding a sponsor was the first hurdle.

"The next step was to find somewhere to hold the event, and a place we could cook 50 dozen tamales," Hunt said.

"We have plenty of people to cook the tamales, but we still need money for drinks and ingredients," Hunt said.

The event will be from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 6 at the Masonic Lodge on Rancho Rd.

For more information or to make donations, contact Toby Waugh or Garrett Ward at (928) 474-5242 ext. 300, or the Hunts at (928) 474-6886.

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