Dec. 24, 2021 — In and around Florence, the holiday season is often about helping others. That was certainly the case this week at the Twin Lakes Store on Highway 101 as a number of local families received toys from Santa and his elves on Dec. 21. Rain and wind didn’t slow down the line of cars waiting to pick-up their gift bags
Karen Crowder manages the Twin Lakes Store and helps store owner Vicki Ambrosio coordinate the giveaway, which allows teens to make a wish list that the community then fulfills.
“The toy giveaway went really well this year. The kids that came by to pick up their toys and gifts were really happy. This is the second year we had to be careful due to COVID, but we had close to 50 families that received gifts they had requested,” Crowder said. “As always, we couldn’t have done this without the support of our customers and friends.”
Community members frequently donate individual gifts, all of a teen’s wish list or make cash donations to help with the effort. This year, local Santa surrogate Mike Bones was on hand to greet the recipients in the pouring rain.
The Twin Lakes event wasn’t the only effort to help members of the community, according yo Florence Food Share Executive Director Colin Morgan.
“For the last 14 years, Al and Mary Baunach of Florentine Estates pull out all the stops and decorate their yard in support of the Florence Food Share. In October, Al and Mary get things spooky for Halloween, and in December, they bring holiday cheer with snowmen, an inflatable Santa and thousands of Christmas lights all decorating their yard,” he said.
Individuals can catch the sights and drop off donations at the Baunach's home at 866 Western Way, located inside Florentine Estates.
“So far, Al and Mary have collected over 3,300lbs of food and $3,000 to support folks facing tough times this Holiday season,” Morgan said.
The generosity of others has always been a part of the Christmas Season for the Baunachs and they will continue to collect donations for the local food pantry until after the first of the year.
"We have been collecting donations for our local groups for 14 years now; about seven years ago, we started collecting food as well,” Al said. "We began collecting this year at the beginning of October and will continue collecting until Jan. 3.”