Three Ways To Help This Christmas

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Tamales are on the menu, toys are collected and food baskets are delivered when three organizations get together to assist needy families for the holidays.

Tamales for Toys has been an annual Rim Country event for more than a decade.

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Tamales for Toys has been an annual Rim Country event for more than a decade.

From 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 2, those who bring a new unwrapped toy to the Payson Elks Lodge (SW corner of Airport Rd. and Beeline Highway) will be given a tamale and bean lunch.

"Santa will be there for pictures with the kids," police officer Matt Van Camp said.

Local firefighters are now spearheading the event that was started by Sylvia and Don Smith.

Payson Parks and Recreation, public safety officers, the Elks Lodge and the Mazatzal Casino assisted this year.

Payson Public Safety's Christmas for Kids anticipates giving toys to 500 children.

"The Christmas for Kids program has been in existence for 20 years," Van Camp said.

It is comprised of men and women of Arizona Highway Patrol, Gila County Sheriff's Office, Gila County Attorney's Office, Payson Police and Fire departments and the Northern Gila County Firefighters Association.

"When parents sign up, they have a wish list for what their children want. If they don't have a wish list, we budget a set amount of money per child for our shoppers to buy toys," Van Camp said. "We are anticipating helping about 500 kids this year and spending about $20,000 at Wal-Mart over three days."

The money raised comes from committee fund-raisers like the concession stands at the town's Fourth of July celebration, an annual golf tournament, and this year's Tunes for Toys.

All three organizations take cash donations and new unwrapped toys.

Christmas for Kids has joined forces with the Marine Corps' Toys for Tots program.

Now, toys donated to Toys for Tots locally are distributed locally.

Parents may sign up for Christmas food baskets, sponsored by the Rim County Optimist Club at the same time they sign their children up for toys. The Rim Country Optimist Club hopes to assist 300 families with baskets.

The Optimist Club accepts cash donations.

Dry and canned foods may be dropped in designated boxes at Bashas', Safeway and Wal-Mart.

Qualifications for the two programs are the same, so one master list is used.

Applicants must bring proof of income and proof of residency in Northern Gila County to the Bashas' Shopping Center at 218 E. Highway 260 (vacant store front near Corral West) on one of three dates between 4 and 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 29, Thursday, Nov. 30 or Friday, Dec. 1. For more information, call (928) 595-TOYS.

The Rim Country Optimist Club accepts checks at P.O. Box 360, Payson, AZ 85541.

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