Auburn locals find ways to give

Holiday campaigns under way for Salvation Army, Toys for Tots
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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For some Auburn residents, giving to others this holiday season is as simple as ringing a bell or shopping for toys. The Marine Toys for Tots Foundation and the Auburn Salvation Army are just two of the many non-profit organizations active in the Auburn-area that are giving locals a pathway to serve their communities. Volunteers say they value the experience of connecting with others, while leaders in the organizations say volunteers make the mission of helping people in need possible. Ringing in the season, donations Fred Relaford, 74, of Auburn, has been stationed outside of Bel-Air Market, off of Highway 49 in Auburn, ringing bells for the Salvation Army, for the past four or five years. Relaford said he’ll do it for as long as he can because he gets the chance to connect with old friends. “Because I am able, I do it. When I’m not able, I won’t be doing it,” Relaford said. “I don’t get tired because I see people I haven’t seen since last year. I see people I know from Auburn.” This year, he plans on ringing for 20 to 25 days of the holiday season. During that time, he’ll switch off between three different bells, one of which he made. As for the money collected in the red bucket for the Salvation Army, Relaford said he feels good knowing it goes toward food and necessities for people in Auburn. “A guy came by and said his sister or his daughter didn’t have the money and the Salvation Army paid her PG&E bill,” Relaford said. Although he does have some pain in his right leg, Relaford said he just takes a seat on his stool if need be. Every second is worth it to him, not only because of the cause he is supporting, but also because he makes new friends. One fellow volunteer that he befriended, he nicknamed Roanne the Red Ringer. “She gave me a kiss on the cheek and I haven’t washed that cheek since,” Relaford said. “She and her friends from Foresthill dance while they ring.” When he isn’t ringing bells for the Salvation Army, Relaford also volunteers at the blood bank, which he said is another easy way for people to help others. Major Ralph Jiminez, Corps Officer of the Auburn Salvation Army, said the bell ringing campaign is the organization’s most profitable fundraiser of the year. “It does help for the holiday season,” Jiminez said. “It does help with Christmastime food baskets to 400 families, which works out to about 800 individuals. That also helps get us through the rest of year.” Aside from feeding people, the Salvation Army offers social services. He said Auburn has more volunteers than many of the other Salvation Army chapters. “A lot of them have to pay employees to ring for them, but the Auburn community is very generous with donations, money, food, time,” Jiminez said. Giving the gift of playtime The Auburn Area Christmas Basket is a holiday toy and food drive, which benefits local families in need. The organization aims to collect two weeks worth of non-perishable food items and new toys. Louis Granstrom owns The Chocolate Shoppe in Auburn off of Lincoln Way. While she can’t often leave the shop to go out and volunteer, this is the second year her business has been a drop-off location for another toy drive, Toys for Tots. The organization was started by the Marine Corps League, which Granstorm said has a special significance to her. “The Toys for Tots is because my brother was a Marine,” Granstrom said. “He would send pictures from Vietnam with the children. When someone asked me if I would do it I said, ‘Of course!’” Because her location was new to the toy drive last year, Granstrom said her collection bin for new, unwrapped toys was relatively empty. Much to Granstrom’s excitement, a woman came in the day before Christmas and changed that. “I was looking at it feeling really bad, until a woman poked her head in and said, ‘Is this where you drop off the Toys for Tots?’” Granstorm said. “She had a whole box full of toys and filled the bucket.” This year Granstrom said she hopes more people are aware that The Chocolate Shoppe is a drop-off location. Granstorm also likes to help the community by donating gift certificates for The Chocolate Shoppe when schools or other organizations need them for fundraisers. She said giving often benefits both the giver and the recipient in some way. “I do gift certificates for all the fundraiser things,” Granstrom said. “It helps them and it helps us.” Reach Sara Seyydin at ______________________________________________________ For more information on the Auburn Salvation Army, call (530) 889-3990, or visit For more information on Toys for Toys, call, (530)615-0060, or visit For more information on the Auburn Area Christmas Basket call, (530) 888-3750, or visit