Santa's Workshop is a Big Hit With Children of Menifee

Denise, the mother of a 10-year-old loaded down with gifts on a very special day, had tears in her ...

Denise, the mother of a 10-year-old loaded down with gifts on a very special day, had tears in her eyes as she looked around the room.

"Just the fact they came here and did all this work right before Christmas, when I know they've got their own stuff to do," she said. "Giving of their time like this ... I don't know how to thank them."

The smile on her son Matthew's face was all the thanks needed Saturday for the many volunteers who helped present gifts to children of low-income families in the Menifee area at Santa's Workshop. The charity event is the cooperative effort of the Menifee Battalion of the Riverside Fire Department, Lake Menifee Women's Club, Menifee Valley Chamber of Commerce, Menifee Valley Community Cupboard and many local businesses.

Close to 1,500 area children passed through the halls and auditorium of Quail Valley Elementary School throughout the day. All had pre-registered and were qualified as low-income in advance by the Community Cupboard. Children got to pose for photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus in addition to selecting gifts from tables loaded with thousands of donated toys. At other stations, the kids got to color in a personalized memory book, play a bean bag toss game and select additional gifts from tables of books, puzzles and other items.

Debbie Manion was one of many representatives of the Lake Menifee Women's Club, the largest contributor to the effort this year. Thirty members of her group donated countless hours in placing more than 70 distribution boxes around town, where gifts were collected, then picking them up and sorting the items.

"It's so awesome," she said about seeing the joy of the children. "It's worth all the hours we put in. To see everything come together is so exciting.

"I saw one little boy who had an armful of gifts, but the thing he was most excited about was that he had a teddy bear with a bell on it. He was jumping up and down just because of that teddy bear."

Many toys were collected at local fire stations in connection with ABC Channel 7's Spark of Love program. Toys that are not given away at this event will be stored for presentation to children in need throughout the year. In addition to the many toys, more than 40 bikes were given away on Saturday.

"I made six or seven trips to bring everything from the fire stations over here," said Capt. Leonard Grill of the Menifee Battalion and coordinator of the local Spark of Love campaign. "People came to the fire stations and dropped off toys by the carload. The Women's Club went to the Toy District in L.A. to pick up items. It's amazing to see how it all came together."

As 10-year-old Matthew showed off his Solar Robot, microscope and crystal growing kit, he talked about what Christmas Day would be like for him.

"I'm going to look in my stocking, see my presents, and give my mom a big hug," he said.


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