The red barrels are out, the holidays are fast approaching and the Auburn Area Christmas Basket Program is ready to help make it a little less stressful for local families. The program, now in its 28th year, provides families and individuals with two weeks worth of food, a holiday meal, and toys for the kids. “We annually help about 550 families and individuals, which corresponds to about 2,400 people,” said Phil Rightmer, publicity chairman. “With the state of the economy, we expect that number to be even greater this year.” The community can help with the effort by putting food items and new toys into the red barrels located inside businesses throughout the area. Packaged and canned items such as tuna, pasta, cake mix, beans, fruits and vegetables, peanut butter, tomato products, spaghetti sauce, macaroni and cheese, olives, sugar, rice, Jell-O, mayonnaise, oatmeal and flour are especially needed. There will also be two food drives — Nov. 20 and 21 at the Grocery Outlet in Auburn and Dec. 4 and 5 at the Safeway in Auburn — where shoppers can purchase extra items and donate them on the spot. Monetary contributions are also needed to help purchase bulk food and fresh produce, meat and bread. “It is amazing that a community this size puts together such a significant program,” program Chairman Vic Macy said. “Each year, Auburn has come to the aid of those among us that need help at Christmas. We really value their contributions.” Food will be given out on the program’s distribution day, Dec. 19 at the Gold Country Fairgrounds’ Armory Building. Dozens of volunteers help pass out the goods. “We even have helpers that have been recipients in the past, and now they are carrying forward the cause,” Macy said. “For volunteers, they usually receive their own Christmas present. When you help a recipient and you know that they would not have had a Christmas otherwise, it reaches right into your soul.” Residents can apply to receive a “basket” by picking up an application at the Auburn Journal, 1030 High St., KAHI 950 AM, 985 Lincoln Way, the Auburn Library, 350 Nevada St. Applications are accepted until Friday, Dec. 11. ~ Staff report ---------- How to donate: Send checks to Auburn Area Christmas Basket Program C/o Union Bank of California 874 Lincoln Way Auburn, CA 95603. The Christmas Basket program is a non-profit, all-volunteer Auburn-based organization. ID#9543962. For more information on the program or how to volunteer, call (530) 888-3750.