2001-11-08 / Community
Nourish the holiday spirit with ‘Santa Comes to Agoura’ food drive
Acorn Staff Writer
Decades ago, Oak Park’s George Annino watched strangers come into his childhood home in Brooklyn, sit down and eat meals his mother made. When it was raining or cold outside, Annino’s father would invite homeless people to join in the comforts of the Annino home.
How did these strangers know such hospitality existed? They knew his parents, Annino said.
And local families in need (or in a giving spirit) should know by now that "Santa Comes to Agoura" is the major food drive around here. Now in its 22nd year, it’s ready to kick off.
Annino, chairman of the steering committee for "Santa Comes to Agoura" food drive, met with the chief principals of the committee on Monday to discuss details for the Sat., Dec. 1 culmination.
The charity gives help to needy families. Schools, churches and temples help identify families and individuals in need. That information is kept confidential by the good samaritans of "Santa Comes to Agoura," which is a nondenominational effort.
It’s also a drive that shows local residents care about others who live here. And it gives everyone a chance to help those in need.
Every year, the drive needs nonperishable food items, supermarket scrip for food (which can’t be used for alcohol or tobacco products) and money, toiletries (including toothpaste, toothbrushes, laundry detergents, toilet tisse and more). The goal is to ease the financial burden of hundreds of families, especially during Christmas and Hanukkah. It reaches out to Agoura, Agoura Hills, Oak Park and Westlake Village.
The "Santa" committee is prepared for another smooth year, Annino said.
"These are hardworking women," he said of the committee, "and they do it for the right reasons." Annino calls them the "dream team" and said they all work for free.
"The ‘Santa Comes to Agoura’ food drive has no overhead, no expenses and no profit," Annino said. Unlike most other charitable causes, 100 percent of proceeds go to recipients. No volunteer gets paid. But the lines of people who help are never-ending, according to committee member Patti Wolfson.
The committee suggested that volunteers work for a minimum of about a half hour on Dec. 1 to allow everyone to help. But any plan is tentative at this point. Helpers organize hundreds of bags of nonperishable goods and deliver them to needy families. Others help to maintain a well-rounded inventory of foodstuffs and personal care items in the grocery bags.
Fourteen local schools and many businesses in the area are involved in collecting donations and money.
Businesses collecting the donations will have "Santa Comes to Agoura" signs in their front windows.
The current list of drop-off spots includes: In Agoura Hills; The Acorn Newspapers, The Do-It Center, Agoura/Westlake Animal Hospital, Galaxy Cleaners, Starbucks, Town and Country Printing, Half Hour Photo, Reyes Adobe Cleaners, Postal Annex, Kramer’s Pharmacy, First Federal Bank, Agoura Chamber of Commerce, Chiropractor Jim Iwanoff, Custom Lasers, Chiropractor Cameron Johnson, California Dance Studio, Agoura Equipment Rental, Spectrum Club, Brad’s Donuts, Agoura Cleaners, and Stone Ground Bakery.
In Westlake Village; RGA Management, Connelly Office Supply, Westlake Independent Honda, and Total Woman.
A drop-off spot in Oak Park is the Bean Scene. And in Woodland Hills is Joel’s Gold Store.
The public is invited to join in the sorting and other tasks at the Do-It Center on Roadside Drive in Agoura Hills on Sat., Dec. 1 from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Santa Claus will arrive by helicopter with 8-year-old leukemia survivor Emily Buelow to greet all the children who have come to help.
At least 30 students from Brookside Elementary School will sing, according to Annino, including "What A Wonderful World," made famous by Louis Armstrong. A flock of doves will be set free as part of the celebration involving local fire departments, peace officers and other groups.
Pictures with Santa will cost $1 per shot to benefit the cause. Additional donations, including frozen turkeys, are encouraged. The first priority is local families, but other groups and organizations are expected to benefit, too.
Some churches have agreed to buy turkeys to give to St. Michael’s Church in East Los Angeles. Other deserving organizations, to list a couple, are battered women and children’s groups and those who are victims of cerebral palsy.
"The nice thing about this is that we’re not a religious group," Annino said. "We help everybody." And everybody helps.
The "Santa Comes to Agoura" committee includes: Lynda Hofmann, Ann Houseal, Alicia Tyson, Dana Biederman, Barb Elman, Cindy Rushing, Jill Kimel, Michelle Baxter, Leslie Yacavone and Andrea Lewis.
Local businesses are encouraged to join as an official drop-off spot. For details, call Patti Wolfson at (818) 889-8338. To donate money, make checks payable to "Agoura Optimist/Santa" and send them to George Annino, 6602 Maplegrove Ave., Oak Park, CA 91377.
If you know someone who needs help, call Annino at (818) 991-1732. All needy families will remain anonymous, as do those who informed about a hardship.