If the wool in your sweater has you itching to give this holiday season, you’re in luck, with more than five ways to get involved, donating a gift or money to make the holidays brighter for the community has never been easier.
All through the month of December, donations will be accepted at area banks, shopping centers and events.
Tamales for Toys
The first event cooks off this weekend with the annual Tamales for Toys drive Saturday, Dec. 6.
Bring a new, unwrapped toy to Gerardo’s Italian Bistro from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and dig into a plate of homemade tamales and sides, courtesy of personnel from the Payson Fire Department and Northern Gila County Firefighters Association, under the supervision of head “cook” Sam Garcia.
Donated toys are handed out to children from infants to 17-year-olds through the Christmas for Kids program put on by public safety groups from around the Rim Country.
Public Safety Christmas for Kids anticipates collecting enough for 500 children, similar to previous years.
The committee, which has been around for more than 20 years, is comprised of the Gila County Sheriff’s Office, Gila County Attorney’s Office, Payson Police and Fire Departments, Department of Public Safety and Northern Gila County Firefighters Association.
This year, families can sign up to benefit from the Christmas for Kids program Dec. 4-6 at the empty store next to Pizza Factory.
When participants register, they will be given information about a special shopping trip to Walmart later in December where children can pick out their gifts.
Besides money received during the Tamales for Toys, money is raised through fund-raisers like the Fourth of July celebration and golf tournament.
If you cannot make it to Tamales for Toys, you can still donate new, unwrapped toys and cash donations at the Payson Police and Fire Departments.
Detective Matt Van Camp said donations would be accepted all month long.
Christmas Food Baskets
The Rim Country Optimist Club will be handing out complete holiday meals for qualifying families and seniors.
Some 300 families will be supplied baskets stocked with everything needed for a feast.
Registration for Christmas Food Baskets from the Rim Country Optimist Club will be taken at the same time as the Christmas for Kids sign-up.
Local banks have set up, decorated and topped angel trees with children’s and seniors’ wishes this holiday. Residents “adopt” an angel by taking their tag and buying the requested items and returning it to the place of adoption.
For the third year, First State Bank, 254 E. Highway 260, has set up a senior angel tree.
Bank branch manager Amy Hill said she receives a list of low-income seniors from the Gila County Aging Services and creates a gift tag for each one that includes basic needs for a senior, such as gift cards, lap blankets and playing cards.
“All gifts will be hand delivered to local seniors in need and without families this holiday season,” Hill said.
“They are overwhelmed when we come because they think everyone forgot about them.” Last year around 125 seniors were given baskets and Hill has 160 names this year.
National Bank of Arizona, 804 S. Beeline Highway, has an angel tree filled with wishes from children to teens. All of the children are from low-income families.
The bank also has a drop box set up for the Humane Society. Drop off cash donations and pet supplies in the box, said bank manager Jenny Wegner.
Arizona State Credit Union, 104 E. Highway 260, also has a children’s angel tree set up in their lobby. It is not mandatory to buy everything on the wish list, just as much as you can afford.
Gifts are to be returned to the senior tree by Dec. 15 and the children’s trees by Dec. 22.
Additionally, bell ringers from the Salvation Army will be set up all around town collecting donations. Look for them at the Walmart, Bashas’ and Walgreens.
Food bank donations
All of the Rim Country food banks are accepting food donations. Drop off donations at the Payson Food Bank, St. Vincent de Paul, 511 S. St. Phillips and Pine-Strawberry Food Bank at the Pine Community Center or at the Payson and Pine libraries.
The eighth annual Clothe-A-Child Program benefiting kindergarten through fifth-grade students at five Rim Country grade schools will be held Saturday Dec. 13 at the Payson Masonic Lodge #70, 200 E. Rancho Road.
Breakfast will be served from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m., a shopping trip to Walmart from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., and Santa’s visit from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Mail tax-deductible donations to the lodge address above, and mark your check for “Clothe-A-Child Program.” For more information, contact Tom Jones at (928) 476-4205.