County Employees Collect Gifts For Young People

Las Cruces – For eight years, Dona Ana County employees have ensured that children in the county's neediest communities will have something to unwrap this holiday season.

During the past month, a county-wide toy drive has been underway to gather more than 600 gifts that will be handed out during Winter Celebrations at six Dona Ana County Community Resource Centers.

Each center collects about 100 names of children in each community who participate in health and wellness classes, education outreach programs, and summer youth programs. Each child's information is then included on ornament tags that hang on trees throughout each Do a Ana County department, where employees can choose a tag that will correspond to a gift they choose to buy. Employees only know the gender of the child, what their interests are, and the sizes of clothing and shoes they wear.

After the gifts are collected, they are wrapped, tagged with each child's name, and sent to each Community Resource Center to be distributed during the Winter Celebrations.

According to Eric Bransford, a program coordinator with the county's Health and Human Services Department, the toy drive is one that grows each year.
"In the eight years we've done this, we have been able to give away more than 4,500 gifts, and each year it seems we always need more," Bransford said.
Volunteers and county employees are welcome to participate in the Winter Celebrations in each community. For some, it's an opportunity to see how a selfless, charitable act is received by children who otherwise might not have something to open during the holiday season.

"It's not uncommon for us to give the child their gift, only to watch them take it home unopened," says Bransford. "For that child, it's more important to have something to open later."

The Winter Celebrations will take place during the month of December at community resource centers in Rincon, Do a Ana, Organ, Chaparral, Radium Springs, and Del Cerro. Bransford says the events are well attended each year, with residents bringing a covered dish to share while gifts are distributed to the children. There are also craft activities and visits from Do a Ana County's 16 Volunteer Fire Districts.

See the schedule below for specific times and locations:

Rincon CRC

220 Baker St.

December 1, 2011

4:30 - 6:30 PM

Dona Ana CRC

5745 Ledesma Drive

December 3, 2011

12:00 - 2:00 PM

Organ CRC

5880 Second St.

December 8, 2011

4:30 - 6:30 PM

Chaparral CRC

190 County line Road

December 10, 2011

12:00 - 2:00 PM

Radium Springs CRC

12060 Lindbeck Rd.

December 16, 2011

6:00 - 8:00 PM

Del Cerro CRC

180 La Fe Avenue

December 17, 2011

2:00 - 4:00 PM