Program draws record numbers

DEL MAR — Thanks to the generosity of area businesses and residents,
the Community Resource Center’s Holiday Baskets program provided a bit more Christmas cheer for about 1,400 North County families this year.
For three days beginning Dec. 18, the lower grandstand at the Del Mar Fairgrounds was transformed into a warehouse-like shopping mall for the program, which provides food, clothing, blankets and toys to low-income residents who must show proof of residency and need.
With a declining economy and high unemployment rate, Laurin Pause, the center’s executive director, said participation was up and donations were down. Prior to the event, now in its 27th year, Pause said she had 1,330 families registered — about 100 more than last year — and 150 on a waiting list.
“We’ll probably serve about 1,450 families by the time we’re done,” Pause said. “That’s a record number. The need is certainly there this year.”
Participants are offered hot chocolate and cookies when they arrive. Santa is on hand for youngsters who want to share their Christmas wishes.
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 sections. Before checking out, each family receives a turkey and a box of food.
Pause said she creates a waiting list because not all families show up and there is always some surplus.
People on the list were called Dec. 20 — the last official day of the event — to come in and shop the following day, although the selection was limited and they likely did not receive a turkey.

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