GREEN — Volunteers with Christmas for Kids of Douglas County bought enough toys Friday evening to brighten the holidays for more than 1,000 Douglas County children.
“Without our help there would be about 1,700 kids in this area that would not have Christmas,” board member Martin Merica said. “Every kid deserves a Christmas. Whatever is going on in your family, (it) is not the child’s fault. The kid doesn’t know that mom and dad lost their job or that they’re about to be evicted or whatever else. They just know there’s no presents under the tree.”
Volunteers put toys for each child in festive green or red bags Sunday afternoon, wrapped it with a fancy bow and put a name tag on it.
Gifts inside those bags were cross referenced with intake forms during the wrapping process to make sure each child’s Christmas wish will be fulfilled.
Soon, Santa Claus will take those presents and start delivering them to children throughout Douglas County. Families that move around are able to pick up at the warehouse and still have the opportunity to meet Santa and take pictures.
Santa will spend time with each family to allow for photos and stories.
“It’s up to the Santa how much time they spend with the family,” Merica said.
Each child living in the home will receive about $90 worth of gifts per child.
“When you go into a kid’s house where they’ve never had a brand new pair of shoes and you give them a pair of shoes and they’re crying, you cry right along with them,” Merica said. “It humbles you a lot.”
Each Santa will also have small presents in their bag to give to children they encounter during the deliveries.
“We get kids that run up when they see Santa Claus walking. We’re not going to tell them we don’t have a toy for them, so we fill up a Santa bag. Every Santa has about 400-500 items they take and give out to every kid they see,” Merica said. “My favorite thing is to take my Santas into restaurants whenever I drive routes. They give out candy canes and toys and spread more Christmas cheer.”
The organization has several corporate sponsors, but Merica pointed out that most of the donations come from Roseburg Forest Products employees and the company’s matching program.
Some companies also hold toy or clothing drives for the organization. Those toys are used to add or amend a child’s gift when volunteers reviewed the gifts with the child’s wishes on Sunday.
Several toys will also be handed out to a child Santa meets in public while making deliveries along one of the 11 routes.
Throughout the years the program has been in existence the volunteers have learned a few lessons, which is why gifts are now placed in bags and not wrapped individually, and there’s a cutoff for applications.
Merica said the application process opened in September and the organization received about 30 applications a day for the first two weeks and there are about 1,000 children on the waiting list.
Editor’s note: Martin Merica is an employee of The News-Review