Program provides holiday gifts for thousands

DEL MAR — For three days beginning Dec. 19, the lower grandstand at the Del Mar Fairgrounds was transformed into a warehouse-like shopping mall for Holiday Baskets, a Community Resource Center program that served about 5,000 low-income North County residents this holiday season.
Participants, who must show proof of residency and need prior to the event, are offered hot chocolate and cookies when they arrive. Children 18 and younger also receive a stuffed animal. Santa is on hand for those who want to share their Christmas list.
After checking in, families are guided through the “store” by a volunteer host with a shopping cart. They begin by selecting one toy per child in the toy department and then move through the clothing and blanket section. Before checking out, each family receives a turkey and a box of food.
When the program began 26 years ago, 50 baskets of food were distributed to families from Carlsbad and Encinitas from a cottage in Encinitas. In 2004, Holiday Baskets expanded. One year later, it moved to the fairgrounds.

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