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Child receives toy bear
                                Photo by Henrietta J. Burroughs
Jeffrey Morino, left and Chris McClure give a child
a toy bear at the East Palo Alto Library's Christmas
event for children.

By Henrietta J. Burroughs
East Palo Alto Today
Posted December 27, 2010

                                                                     Click each image below to enlarge.

Chris McClure and Jeff Morino hold toy bears
Jeffrey Morino, left, and Chris McClure hold several donated toy bears that they are about to give to East Palo Alto children. Click each image to see a larger picture at the left of this page.

Children wait around Santa Santa sits with two children
         Santa sits with children

Child receives a toy bear Children wait to see Santa
Young girl gets toy.  Children wait to see Santa.

Two employees of the San Mateo County Probation Department worked this year to insure that 600 East Palo children had a happier Christmas. Chris McClure and Jeffrey Morino, both deputy probation officers, sat in the East Palo Alto Library and distributed 600 stuffed toy bears to the children who came to see Santa.

Santa has been coming to the library to speak to the children, who wanted to talk with him there, for more than seven years. This is the third year that the children were given toy bears after their visit with Santa.

For McClure, who started the toy bear give-away, being a part of the library's Christmas program and collecting and distributing toy bears is a way of contributing to the community. "A lot of kids will go without toys. This is their Christmas tonight. We're honored to be able to give back to the community," he said.

McClure gave much credit to the Chief of the San Mateo County Probation Department, Stuart J. Forrest, for supporting the toy give-away and the deputies' participation.

When the toy give-away started at the library three years ago, there were 50 bears and 400 children who showed up to get them. So, McClure spoke with Shirley Lamarr, who is with the Choices Program -- a re-entry program in the San Mateo County Jail -- about getting the program's female inmates involved in making the bears.

During the second year of the program, there were three hundred bears that were given to the youngsters.

This year, the majority of the bears the children received at the library were made by the women in the Choices Program. Twenty four bears were donated by the Bloomingdale's Stanford department store, located in Palo Alto at the Stanford Shopping Center. (Click here to read the article about Bloomingdale's donation.).

Working together, Morino and McClure gave each child, who sat with Santa, one of the 600 bears they had on hand. "I just wanted to do something that would make a difference," Morino said.

And make a difference, everyone did. The children seemed excited about receiving their bears after their chat with Santa.

At this year's event which was held on December 17, there were 500 to 600 children who arrived at the library to talk with Santa. They were accompanied by approximately 160 adults. Who was keeping tabs? Karen Choy was. Choy was one of the volunteers at the library's holiday program, and it was her job to make sure that parents and children signed in.

Choy's face held a broad smile that seemed to reflect the joy that was visible on the children's faces and on the faces of McClure and Morino, as well. "It's incredible," Choy said, in speaking about the event and the number of children who showed up to see Santa.

"This is something you can't put a price on," McClure said. "We don't plan on stopping anytime soon."

Text and pictures by Henrietta J. Burroughs. Email the author at: epatoday@epatoday.org


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