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Holiday Baskets Bring Joy

Children smiled and pointed at toys, parents sifted through winter jackets and expectant mothers debated on the perfect baby blanket. It was a typical holiday shopping spree except for one big difference, it was all free.


More than 1,800 North County families qualified for the Holiday Baskets program hosted by the Community Resource Center, a local nonprofit, at the Del Mar Fairgrounds from Friday through Sunday. With the help of around 1,600 volunteers and hundreds of donors, the event, in its 30th year, assists families in need, providing food, clothing and Christmas presents.

Laurin Pause, executive director of Community Resource Center, talked about the sudden onset of misfortune many program participants experience.

“Last year, about 40 percent of our families were first-timers,” she said. “That’s a lot of people who never needed help before.”

Through an innovative format, participants are ushered through what resembles a shopping center. There are racks of jackets, toy displays, baby items and even a room of bicycles, reserved for families with the greatest need. Fifty tons of food will be distributed along with blankets and special gift bags for seniors and mothers. Every family member will walk away with a new jacket and a special Christmas present they get to choose themselves.

“Our entire program is based on choices and helping people make decisions,” Pause said. “This format helps to reinforce that.”

Linda Hayes’ badge reads “Queen of Holiday Baskets.” The 67-year-old has been volunteering with the event for 21 years.

“This is Christmas to me now,” she said. “It’s truly what we should be doing this season.”

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