Auburn's Christmas lifeline sees more needy, less money

Christmas Basket event set to go Saturday
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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The Auburn Area Christmas Basket Program is showing sure signs of recession – with donations down and numbers of recipients up. The 28th annual food and toy giveaway to the needy takes place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Gold Country Fairgrounds’ Armory Building in Auburn. Phil Rightmer, a carpenter and longtime volunteer at the event, said 600 families and individuals have turned in applications this year compared with 520 in 2007. At the same time, a drop in donations has meant some cutbacks, including giving toys to children ages 11 and under instead of 12 and under, which has occurred in past years. “It’s been harder because donations have been off,” Rightmer said. “But people have come through and we’re going to pull it off.” Only those individuals who have pre-registered will be allowed to line up for the opening of the Christmas Basket event. Typically, the first vehicles arrive before dawn at the fairgrounds’ parking lot off Auburn Folsom Road and the lineup is several hundred autos long by start time at 10 a.m. Inside the armory, people receive a two-week supply of food, including a Christmas dinner. There are also stations for toys and a local knitting guild provides warm caps and even blankets for the dolls given to younger recipients. Rightmer said volunteers are still needed for the afternoon shift. People not pre-registered can enroll at 2 p.m. Saturday and the event usually winds up around 3 p.m. “It’s just helping people out who need help,” Rightmer said. “We have several people helping out who have been helped out as recipients in the past.” The Journal’s Gus Thomson can be reached at