The Patterson-Westley Chamber of Commerce wants every local child to have a toy and something warm to wear for Christmas.
To make that happen, the local business group kicked off its jacket-and-toy drive a few weeks ago.
Throughout Patterson, local businesses have bins for people to drop off donations of warm clothes, unopened toys and canned food. Cash will also be accepted.
“It’s important that the little kids are taken care of during the holiday,” chamber president Ellen Calmettes said.
The chamber has compiled a list of about 800 needy West Side families that will receive the fruits of its collections.
“We’re going to be going out to a lot of families,” Calmettes said.
Both she and chamber secretary Debbie Calcote appeared excited as they talked about this year’s drive.
They couldn’t help brainstorming about how to make next year’s drive even better.
“This is my favorite time of year,” Calmettes said. “If I was a millionaire, I wouldn’t be, because I’d give it all away.”
A bin that has been slowly filling the past week sat close to her in the local U.S. Bank branch where Calmettes works. She and Calcote said the inspiration for the drive started with the two of them talking in that very building.
Last year’s drive generated a slew of donations and helped many families, they said.
Calcote recalled one family in particular. She said that during the chamber’s annual downtown holiday event last year, she saw a brother and sister who she guessed were 6 and 7 years old running around unsupervised in the chilly night air. The children were without shoes and wore shorts and T-shirts, she said.
Calcote, who noticed them as they kept going to get food from one of the event’s many spreads, said she tried to talk to them, but they kept running away. She ended up getting a deputy to help corral them.
“We had to cut them off,” Calcote said. “We just couldn’t catch them.”
When they did finally got a hold of them, she found they were being taken care of by their homebound grandmother. Their mother was incarcerated.
Calcote and the deputy managed to get the children some warm clothes and visited the grandmother. They took her an assortment of food and goodies.
This year, about 15 volunteers will head out Dec. 23 to give gifts to families. The chamber will accept donations until Dec. 22.
“We’re trying to take care of the whole West Side,” Calmettes said.
To reach John Saiz at the Irrigator, call 892-6187 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org