With just a few days left until Christmas, Santa's elves will be busy distributing toys and clothing to Del Norte County kids starting this weekend.

Smith River firefighters and volunteers with Trees of Mystery in Klamath will be distributing gifts to families in their respective communities today, said Ron Phillips, special projects coordinator for Rural Human Services.

"(The parents) get an opportunity to give us an idea of what their child would like," Phillips said. "What we do is we put those mittens out on the tree and then people take them off and either buy what they've asked for or buy something that goes along with it."

Volunteers with the RHS Santa's Workshop program started wrapping presents Wednesday and are expected to continue through Monday, Phillips said. They will be distributing those gifts to 1,150 children from 450 families throughout the county. Seventy-eight families from Smith River signed up to participate in the program, he said. Toys will also be distributed to about 17 families in Klamath.

This year video games and other electronics appeared to be the most requested items, Phillips said. This included LeapFrog and VTech gadgets for little kids and XBox video games for older children. Legos, Barbie dolls and art supplies are also popular, he said.

"A great one I get from Debbie Stover over at the stationary store has about three books and various types of pencils, colored pencils and chalk. It's really a great thing for beginning in art," he said. "We try to keep the gift between $20 and $40, but we really prefer the $20 and $30 range."

RHS staff members also started giving out holiday meal baskets Friday. About 320 baskets were made up as of noon Friday. Phillips said RHS may distribute up to 350 baskets to local families.

Large families get a basket with a turkey, a 5-pound sack of potatoes, vegetables, pudding and jello.

"They get stuffing, green beans, corn, olives and pickles. Everything for a Christmas dinner," Phillips said. "And then small families got a chicken and the homeless, they get a gift card for McDonald's and a box of cookies."

The Santa's Workshop distribution sites for today include the Smith River Fire Protection District, 245 Haight Ave, and the Klamath Community Center, 219 Salmon Ave.

Meanwhile, the VFW is also getting into the holiday spirit by distributing toys and meals from 1 to 5 p.m. Tuesday. Santa Claus will be there. Toys for kids ages 1-13 will be given out, as well as turkey or ham dinners. For more information, call Sparky Countess at 951-1635.

Reach Jessica Cejnar at jcejnar@triplicate.com.