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Community gives St. Nick a break

This is the 13th year Monterey Regional Fire District firefighters are hosting an event for families and children in Kinship Center programs to come have lunch, watch a video on fire prevention and sit on Santa’s lap to receive their toys.

Organizers say families know each other quite well from being in these programs for years, so it’s a nice get-together of being with friends and family.

The Kinship Center is a California nonprofit organization that offers hospitality, foster care and support to families and children in need. Director of development in the central coast region Bill Lutz is for the Kinship Center, and is always looking for new ways to find donations and fundraising opportunities for the organization.

“You have a big impact on them, and they know someone cares for them and that they’re important to people,” Lutz says about the personal meaning behind making these children happy.

Approximately 300 kids and 150 families are helped during the toy drive.

“There are over 62,000 kids in California that need new homes, need new families, so we’re trying to do our part in the Central Coast,” Lutz says.

Without the support of the community, this organization would not thrive as much as it does. The organization is served from the community’s contribution because of the hard work and dedication shown from the Monterey Regional Fire District and smaller local businesses.

“We try to provide whatever the families and the kids need,” Lutz says. “That’s our mission.”

Throughout the year the Kinship Center’s biggest fundraiser is the gala hosted in September. Other businesses contribute toys, clothes and gift cards to the kids and families throughout the year.

MRFD firefighter Justin Reyes has been involved with the Kinship Center program for 13 years, having served on the board of directors for two years four years ago.

“When we first started working for the Kinship Center, it was solely an organization founded in Monterey County,” Reyes says. “I think about three years ago they ended up joining in with a big organization called Seneca Group, which is based out of the Bay Area.”

The MFRD also contributes to their cause even after the holiday season has ended.

“We usually get so many toys even after Christmastime when the holidays are over, they’ll still use those toys for birthdays and other things throughout the year,” Reyes says.

Students can gain volunteer hours through the Kinship Center if they contact the Kinship program directly. The Holiday Toy Drive is still collecting new, unwrapped toys through Dec. 24 at all five MRFD stations.

-Claire Taagen

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