Laura Wiens, The Triplicate

Only two days are left to help out Santa's Workshop, Del Norte-style. The push to provide children's gifts and food boxes for the less fortunate in our midst wraps up at 4 p.m. Wednesday. By then, all toy contributions must be delivered to the Floral Building at the county fairgrounds, said Ron Phillips, head elf and special projects coordinator for Rural Human Services.

Food items should be brought to Rural Human Services at 286 M St.

Santa is willing to bend that deadline a bit for some gifts.

"Any mittens with a 'K' for Klamath or 'SR' for Smith River in the ID number on the back of the mitten need to be brought in by tomorrow," Phillips said. "Others will be accepted as late as Thursday afternoon."

For the past 10 years under the RHS umbrella, Santa's Workshop has sprung into action each November. The effort involves the distribution around the county of trees with paper mittens designating a child by age and gender and the child's gift wish. In addition, the program collects food and cash donations for food boxes to provide holiday meals to families.

Last year RHS was able to supply 250 families with food boxes, said Rural Human Services fiscal coordinator Darci Wilson.

This year, 402 families will get them.

"This is the most applications for food boxes that I've seen in my time here," Wilson said. "And I've been at RHS for 17 years."

Donations of canned, non-perishable food items are still being accepted.

As of Monday afternoon, 47 mittens were hanging on a tree at Walmart waiting for sponsors, according to Phillips.

"We still have 150 mittens out there that haven't been brought in yet," he said.

But Phillips is optimistic.

"People are still out there shopping," he said.

Wrapping paper and tape are in short supply, said Phillips, and volunteers are still welcome to come help wrap gifts.

More than 1,350 toys were wrapped last year.

On Saturday, volunteer firefighters finished up soliciting gifts and money as part of their Spark of Love - Fill a Firetruck Toy Drive. They brought their bounty to Santa's Workshop at the fairgrounds, where other volunteers were busily wrapping presents.

The firefighters collected $5,000-$6,000 worth of toys and cash, said Cresent City Fire Capt. Dana Reno. It was their first year taking part in the effort, setting up shop mostly outside Walgreens and Walmart. They plan to continue the drive next year.

"If this is any indication of years to come, it will be very successful," Reno said, adding that community support was impressive, with some people actually tracking the firefighters down to donate.

Reno said that when he and firefighter Blaine Hurley were unloading the truck Saturday, "it was really a great feeling that we couldn't describe. Knowing that some kid is going to have a smile on their face at Christmas kept us going."

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