The Spirit of Giving |

The Spirit of Giving

Seth Lightcap/Sierra SunThe Soroptimist's International of Truckee Donner organized the toys for tots donation drive for the Truckee Community Christmas. Volunteer Colleen Monrean had her hands full Thursday as she helped wrap the donated gifts.

Solstice marks the return of the Sun King, the birth of a babe brings a new faith, a festival of lights marks the return of a temple. Volunteers throughout our community embody the spirit of giving: a ray of light to those in need this winter.

More than 20 years ago, local volunteers recognized the difficulty the holidays bring for families who cant afford food and presents, for seniors who feel forgotten and for those without warm winter clothes. Truckee Community Christmas developed to lend a helping hand, bringing together many organizations including the Soroptimist, local Realtors, grocery stores and banks. They collect food, clothing, and toys for Community Christmas to distribute during the holiday season. Its an umbrella organization for people in the community who want to give to families at Christmas time, said board president Joan Hartwell. It truly is the most wonderful time of year.

Mindy Harrington took over the reins of the 10-year-old coat drive when organizer Virginia Knittle moved away four years ago. It fell into my lap, ad I didnt want to see it end, said Harrington. I love giving back to the community and working with the volunteers.Volunteers are busy with a growing amount of donations each year. Gently worn coats are dropped off at Church of the Mountains, 10069 Church St. in Truckee during regular business hours, from the weekend following Thanksgiving to Friday, Dec. 21.All I do is hang up coats, Harrington says modestly. Driving the coats from the church to the Truckee Community Christmas distribution site, at the old Middle School in Truckee, can get kind of crazy. They are packed into trucks, cars, and vans of volunteers until all 500 plus coats are moved. The coats are also delivered to seniors.If you are in need, just pick up a coat. The is no need for paperwork to prove your need.I am touched by all the people who offer to help, Harrington said. So many give so much to make sure everybody is happy. That warms my heart.Coat Contact Mindy Harrington: 587-4550

Cold, wind and snow and the chill of the warehouse doesnt daunt volunteers gathering food for Truckee Community Christmas. A stash of staples, such as tuna, cereal, pasta, beans, veggies, coffee, tea and flour fill the bags and boxes at the distribution site. Coldwell Banker Realty, Save Mart supermarkets, Project Mana, Northstar-at-Tahoe and community members came together to feed the less fortunate this holiday.We are passionate about where we live, and the opportunity to give back to the community, said Terri Viehmann, the coordinator for the Northstar effort. An operations director started the program about nine years ago, where Northstar employees donate any amount, from one dollar to $20.Its always so exciting to see employees come together to contribute, said Viehmann. This year the process was simplified by calling ahead to WinCo and purchasing by the case. Sharon Praetzel, event planner at Northstar, estimated $3,000 worth of groceries were bought and delivered back to Truckee within two hours. Its a huge team effort.Note: it couldnt have been done without Tommy the bus driver.Andy Otto of Caldwell Banker figured they were a big organization in town and a natural partner for Truckee Community Christmas. He is a self-described assistant to the head sorter Patrick Millard, who picks up and sorts the food. Patrick is really a key person, said Otto.I had done some volunteering in the past, and Andy asked me to be the liaison, said Lynn Richardson with the Coldwell Banker sponsored food drive. It feels nice to give back, you meet amazing people and get to know your community on a totally different level.The contributions stay in the community. Local families get on a list to qualify, and pick up food at the Old Middle school.Its a great message for families, Richardson emphasizes. A little girl in the grocery store asked Why do you do this?Richardson explained Other kids are not as fortunate as we are, and dont have enough to eat.Its a great way for children in the community to be involved.

Some get so tickled over something so small, said Patti Bena, woman in charge of adopt a senior. The most important thing is giving the community awareness of our seniors. It does you good to get to know them, and its a lot of fun.This year, Bena arranged to stuff stockings as well, and delivered 40 stockings to seniors and recipients of Meals on Wheels who had not requested to be on a gift list. Bena didnt want to leave anyone out, and the stockings were stuffed to capacity.Our Chirstmas program is pretty popular, and people start calling before the ads come out, Bena adds. Many seniors dont have family, and the giving goes both ways. Seniors have the wisdom of age to share. When you think you know everything, youll learn something new from someone old.The community deserves an enormous hand. Even when we are all a bit strapped for cash, we come out and take care of our own, said Bena.

Santa has some help in the toy department. The Soroptimists of Truckee are the elves who collect and wrap donated toys for Truckee Community Christmas. Headed up this year by Linda Macomber, the event is once again a huge success. Its great to give back to the community, and I am overjoyed to help, said Macomber. We expect to distribute 500-700 toys this year.

This time of year is really neat. People have burst into tears, said Sarah Coolidge, with the North Tahoe Resource Center (NTRC) in Kings Beach, and in her third year coordinating the adopt a family program.The tears are joyous, falling from adopted family eyes, open in wonder at the generosity of gifts.The NTRC, in conjunction with Tahoe Womens Services, provides families in need with gifts to put under the tree. Although its a season of giving, the sight of Santas work under the tree is an innate part of holiday anticipation.People may have lost jobs, have medical issues and expenses, said Coolidge. Every year we serve about 30 to 35 families.Roxanne Duffield, dressed as Mrs. Claus, has adopted a family for the second year. We were wrapping the presents, singing Christmas carols, it gets us all in the mood, said Duffield. Its great fun, and a team effort. The particular thing is that we give directly to a family.The family State Farm adopted is faced with heavy expenses from medical issues. They arrived at the center, shy and quiet. But their faces glowed with joy at the beautiful sight Duffield and her team supplied. Packages piled festively on a table warms any heart.Remember, needs of neighbors dont end after the 12 days. The gift of warmth and light, which helps with utilities may be donated throughout the year as well as cash for necessities and food cards. Contact the NTRC at 546-0952 to continue the spirit of giving.

We have great times, good times and bad times. I come from meager means, and I dont want to forget that, said Elaine Durazo, Realtor associate with Prudential California Realty, Tahoe City.Prudential California Realty in Tahoe City and Truckee are drop off stations for Toys for Tots and the Project Mana food drive. It takes a couple of people to organize, and Durazo kicks off in October with emails to the Tahoe Sierra Board of Realtors advising of the holiday collections. We as Realtors are blessed to meet people in a wide spectrum of the socio-economic spectrum, from owners of multi-million dollar properties to folks working toward the American Dream of home ownership, said Durazo. The outpouring from the entire community is very touching. Everybody in the community is giving generously. Its been very positive.Give generously to Toys for Tots and the Project Mana food drive at Prudential California Realty, 950 North Lake Blvd., Tahoe City or 11890 Donner Pass Road, Truckee through Dec. 21.

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