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Red barrels brim with food and toys for Auburn’s needy

By: Bruce Warren Journal Staff Writer
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The red round barrels have been in Auburn-area stores now since the first week in November with donated food and toys going to community families. The food and toys are being collected by the Auburn Area Christmas Basket Program, which has been around for the past 27 years. Chairman Victor Macy plans to have his wheeled sleigh in front of the Safeway store on Bell Road this Friday and Saturday. Macy hopes residents will fill up the 8-foot by 4-foot sleigh with canned goods such as soups, vegetables and fruit, or dry goods such as peanut butter, spaghetti and beans. The toys can be for children 12 and under. “We can always use toys,” Macy said. “We’ve gotten little dolls for the girls and balls for the boys. We stay away from guns and weapons of mass destruction.” Mother Lode Softball, which plays in Regional Park, has played a key role the past eight years in collecting toys and holding fundraisers to purchase toys. Founder Chris Stamps said his organization collected enough toys to fill 30 45-gallon contractor bags last year. He has made family deliveries with six of his eight children in the past. “I’ve been to a couple of foster homes to deliver toys,” Stamps said. “My wife has had tears in her eyes when she sees the reaction of the children.” Shantil and Brandon French of Auburn and their three children are just one of many families to benefit from the Christmas Basket Program. Even though Brandon French works, the family lives on a tight budget. “It helps us so much at Christmas for the children with food and presents,” Shantil French said. “I love the program. You just can’t beat it.” Last Friday, Macy had his sleigh in front of Grocery Outlet on Highway 49. There were a few bags of donated groceries before noon, but it was far from being full. Volunteer Manuel Ferreira, also a board member of the Christmas Basket Program, said that 90 red barrels were put out in the Auburn area and will be collected on Dec. 15. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Dec. 20, families who have filled out applications for food and toys, obtained at the Journal, will pick up boxes at the Gold Country Fairgrounds. “They call me the barrel guy,” Ferreira said. “Already we’ve got six barrels from Auburn Elementary and over 40 boxes from E.V. Cain.” Boy Scouts of Troop 779 in Auburn will be helping out with food distribution at the parking lot, said Scoutmaster David Luke. “It’s a way for the kids to give back to the community,” Luke said. “After they assemble the bikes, they get to see the ones who receive them.” After the food is gathered at the armory, it’s quite a sight, according to volunteer Sallysue Stein. Stein said she has donated money over the years and decided to help out at the fairgrounds last year and this year. “It was pretty amazing to see the armory go from empty to becoming like a mini-supermarket for families,” Stein said. “I was amazed at how organized it was. In the last week, toys and bicycles start to come.” The Journal’s Bruce Warren can be reached at brucew@goldcountrymedia.com, or comment online at Auburnjournal.com.