OROVILLE — Survivors of the North Complex fires enjoyed treats, visits with Santa Claus, donated items and art projects Friday at the Wildfire Resource and Recovery Center.
The event, put on by North Valley Catholic Social Services, St. Vincent de Paul and North Valley Community Foundation, gave fire survivors some Christmas cheer. There was a top-secret toy room in the far corner of the center, where parents were allowed to choose from dozens of toys and books and then visit a Christmas wrapping station to get the toys all wrapped up for their children.
A large amount of toys were donated by an anonymous donor, who signed her name as Jesus Christ, which gave North Valley Catholic Social Services the idea to put on the event. There were also gift cards for older children and Wal-Mart gift cards for parents donated by the North Valley Community Foundation and a huge amount of clothes, shoes, blankets, diapers, wipes and even carbon monoxide detectors for adults to take home.
“Our goal is to make sure the kids have a happy Christmas,” said Jake Fender, California Hope Program Manager for Northern Valley Catholic Social Services.
North Valley Catholic Social Services Program Manager-Disaster Case Management Sendi Barrett emerged from the secret wrapping station to talk about the event.
“It’s a tough reminder of what parents lost,” said Barrett. “We’re providing tangible items for adults as well. We hope to spread holiday cheer. We want to keep the magic and illusion so that kids can believe good things are coming despite the disaster.”
Tamara Landsdale and her mother, Tammy Schultz, watched Tamara’s two-year-old daughter Opalfaye Jarrell, dressed in a festive holiday dress, to color in a coloring book. Landsdale lost three homes in the North Complex fires. She is currently living in a recreational vehicle and hopes to move into a more permanent home in the spring.
“It’s been really helpful,” Landsdale said about the event. “I got stuff for my daughter.”
Santa enjoyed his time with children as they sat on his lap and asked for presents. When asked if there were any special requests, Mike Williams, also known as Santa, said there was one notable request.
“One little boy said he wanted a girlfriend,” Williams said, chuckling. “I don’t think I can get my elves to do that.” Williams is himself a survivor of the Camp Fire.
St Vincent de Paul volunteer Sara Louton helped children fill up cups with hot chocolate and apple cider and handed out cookies and candy.
“We want to make sure kids have a good Christmas,” Louton said. “We want to give them a sense of normalcy. Their parents are in financial hardships.”