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Christmas to Remember raises $80,000

By Liz Burdick

Argonaut High School senior Ashley Prefling helps two girls get their shopping done at Kmart Wednesday. Hundreds of elementary age children were taken shopping between Tuesday and Thursday using the funds raised by A Christmas to Remember.

Photo by: Liz Burdick

Hundreds of children piled into and out of Kmart this week, each leaving with a bag full of brand-new clothes purchased with money raised during last week´s “A Christmas to Remember” fund-raiser that took place throughout Amador and Calaveras counties.

Approximately $80,000 was raised in two days to help nearly 750 low-income kids, according to Jay Lucke, chairman of the foundation.

“We never have set expectations about (how much) we´re going to get,” he said. “We´re just thrilled and amazed that a couple of guys can stand in the middle of a mall and people throw $80,000 at them.”

A Christmas to Remember Foundation, in conjunction with Hometown Radio, held the fund-raiser Dec. 7 and 8. Donation stations were set up in Jackson, Sutter Creek, Pine Grove, Ione, Buckhorn, San Andreas and Valley Springs from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. both days.

On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week, kindergarten through sixth-grade students from local schools were escorted through Kmart by volunteers and were allowed to choose two shirts, two pairs of pants, a jacket, a pair of shoes, a package of socks and a package of underwear. Junior high and high school-aged children were given gift certificates to Kmart or Swensen´s Shoe Store for their shopping.

Helping the children shop “gives you the Christmas spirit and is very rewarding,” said volunteer Toni Fancher. “It´s really fun to see their eyes light up when they get a new shirt or jacket.”

In addition to adult volunteers, students from Amador and Argonaut high service clubs and leadership classes were on hand to help each child pick out appropriate clothing.

“It´s a lot of fun. They´re all happy and excited,” said Argonaut senior Ashley Prefling of the children she worked with.

“The little kids like having the teenagers pay attention to them,” said Patty Knobelauch, school nurse and shopping coordinator for the foundation. “We have some teenagers helping out now who were a part of the program when they were little.”

The program has operated through Kmart for many years, each year receiving at least a 10 percent discount on all items purchased. “We wouldn´t be able to do this without Kmart here,” Knobelauch said.

The event ran smoothly each day and children were back to school by lunchtime.

“This is what it´s all about right here,” Lucke said Wednesday while watching the first kids arrive, “to watch these kids.”

Reprinted with permission from Amador Ledger Dispatch