Triplicate Staff

Huge effort under way for children in need

Paper cut-out mittens inscribed with a child's name, age and gift wish are making their way into the hearts of those who want to help make a child's Christmas brighter.

The annual Rural Human Services Santa's Workshop is under way, and trees have been popping up in local businesses around town, their branches laden with the green and red tags of hope of children up to 14 from needy families.

Ron Phillips, director of Rural Human Services, has overseen the Santa's Workshop project for the past six years. "People like to refer to me as Santa," he said. "That's too big of a job for me; I prefer 'Head Elf.'"

About 40 volunteers will chalk up a total of several hundred hours within two months on this labor of love.

The mitten-shaped tags can be filled out by participating families at Rural Human Services, 286 M St., Mondays through Thursdays from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. RHS uses eligibility criteria from Social Services "Passport

to Services," or families can

bring in proof of income and birth certificates. Volunteers take the mittens and hang them on the trees where people can choose one or more and shop according to the age, sex and interest of the child.

"People can also bring in the mitten with money and RHS will do the shopping," said Phillips.

Last year, according to Phillips, 1,325 kids from roughly 600 families received gifts. "Every year has gotten bigger," he said. "It's not what we want but that's how the world turns right now."

Unwrapped gifts with tags secured to them can be delivered to RHS by Dec. 3. All donations after that date should be brought to Santa's Workshop at the Floral Building at the Del Norte County Fairgrounds through Dec. 19. Families can pick up the gifts on Dec. 22 between the hours of 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. at the fairgrounds, or from noon-3 p.m. at the Smith River Fire Department and Klamath Community Center.

RHS will also be accepting applications for recipients of holiday food baskets beginning Nov. 26. Monetary and food donations can be made through Dec. 13.

"We were able to help 285 families last year," said Kim Hernandez, coordinator and receptionist for RHS. "This year we are expecting to help about 300 families."

A wish list to fill up the holiday baskets will soon be available, she said, and calls will be made to local businesses about collecting food in bins.

"The community always pitches in and we always seem to be able to make it work," she said. "A can of food or a box of cake mix makes a big difference."

Reach Laura Wiens at