By Nikki Garrett Metzger
(Victorville)–Around the holidays, many people’s thoughts turn to charity and those less fortunate than themselves. That same spirit of giving has made it possible for many families in need to enjoy a Christmas miracle. For the second year in a row, Desert Valley Charitable Foundation and American Medical Response have partnered for the annual “Fill the Ambulance” program. Starting on Black on Friday and continuing for the next several weekends, volunteers took an AMR ambulance to the Mall of Victor Valley and placed donation boxes in various locations, asking people to contribute items for needy High Desert families.
This community effort culminated in a party and Santa’s Closet on Friday night.
“How we’re different from other charity giving holiday programs is that we take care of the whole family. We really focus on…not only the small children, but the teenagers in the family and mom and dad,” said Jana Bullock, Marketing Director for Desert Valley.
Families who were identified by local churches as being in need were invited to come to the event where they would have a chance at a Merry Christmas. Here, they were able to pick up their whole family’s gifts, food items, and even had a chance to shop for other family members. While mom and dad were “shopping” the kids enjoyed a party where they made crafts, had cookies and hot chocolate, and visited with Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus.
“Every family not only gets gift items, but also meal cards. They really come away with everything” Bullock explained.
This year Santa’s Closet was filled with gifts and necessity items for the whole family.
“We asked for basic necessities, like shampoo and personal hygiene items. And they were the first things to go this year – shampoos and body wash, things like that” said April Grossman with AMR. “People would come up and ask us ‘What do you need?’ And we would say ‘stuff for teens!’”
Donations came in for those teens, including curling irons, bath and body gift sets, Axe body wash gift sets for boys, wallets, and watches.
“We spent over $2100 in cash donations plus all of the items that came in. Enough to take care of over 50 families” Grossman said.
It was a party atmosphere at the foundation – with volunteers around to help the families, hot chocolate flowing, and Santa roaming around talking to the kids. When asked how he was doing, Jim Larson of AMR remarked, “I’m good! Having so much fun tonight!”
Harold, one of the volunteers from AMR said he was involved because “This feels a lot more personal than other charitable groups. You get involved so personally with the kids handing out the toys.”
The Fill the Ambulance program and Santa’s Closet were made possible by donations from people throughout the High Desert, volunteers from AMR, Desert Valley Charitable Foundation, the Sterling Inn, the Mall of Victor Valley, KAT Country Radio, Y102, The FOX 106.5 FM, Oggi’s and Burrtec.