by LINDA FRABL

 

Founded 30 years ago, the Holiday Basket Drive began as merely a small distribution of baskets to approximately 50 families in need. Today, the baskets have been replaced by a “shopping experience” for over 1,500 households in need, and thanks to over 200 organizations and nearly 2,000 volunteers, the drive is the largest distribution of its kind in San Diego County! As Linda Hayes, a dedicated Holiday Basket Drive volunteer for more than twenty years, exclaimed, “The program’s goal is to make a family in need feel that they are holiday shopping like everyone else.”

Thus, needy families are invited to shop with dignity at a “no cost store” that has been created at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Families “shop” by pushing actual shopping carts through a Costco-esque warehouse-like area the size of a football field. The “store” items consist of toys, canned goods, and a mix of new and gently used jackets, coats, blankets, linens, baby items, and more. The participating families must be pre-screened and registered through the Community Resource Center, and if they qualify, they will receive an appointment time to “shop” during the three-day distribution period (December 14-16).

All merchandise is supplied by the numerous clothing / food / toy drives throughout San Diego, and the program is aided by grants from the county of San Diego and the cities of Encinitas and Solana Beach. In addition, TaylorMade® and Coldwell Banker, along with the Board of Realtors, provide the largest corporate food drives for the program. If you as an individual, or your organization (boy/girl scout troop, school charity, etc.) would like to contribute to the Holiday Basket Drive, either as a volunteer or as a provider, the Community Resource Center’s website, www.crcncc.org, has detailed templates and helpful suggestions for setting up your own distribution site.

Summing up the worthwhile cause, Linda said, “The program directly connects thousands in the community who want to help thousands in the community who need the help. Adults and children alike learn about the needs in our own community, and are presented with tangible ways to make a difference.”