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Toy Giveaway Serves Over 500 Youngsters
Just to see the children smile as they received toys was worth a visit to the Christmas toy giveaway.

The Riverbank Cares Committee organized an event on Dec. 21 where Santa Claus and his elves handed out presents to more than 500 underprivileged children at the downtown Karate for Kids Academy owned by Scott Pettit.

This year the Committee insisted the parents pre-register and bring their children with them, which made for a more companionable event.

"We got some good stuff. A furry dog, a model car, Hot Wheels. This will sure help with Christmas. I haven't worked for three months," said Gabriel Alarcon, adding the four boys with him were his brother-in-law's but he had a boy and girl of his own at home.

Leaving the building's warmth and light, Paula Tillman and Laura Ortega also complimented the organizers as they herded groups of children trying to look into their bags and find their way through the dark at the same time.

The line started forming outside a couple of hours before the doors opened and stretched the length of the block by 6 p.m. when organizers started letting in a few families at a time.

They came and continued coming until close to the scheduled closing at 7:30 p.m., when a group of some 30 or 40 people who had not pre-registered and had been waiting patiently were also allowed into the building and received plastic bags of toys besides a hug from Santa and extras like candy canes and bags of peanut brittle.

Each bag contained a "substantial" toy such as a board game plus a toy stuffed animal and some stocking stuffers, said Riverbank Human Services specialist Norma Torres-Manriquez.

Despite the cardboard boxes of toys piled up in the room, the Committee was still short of presents the night before when AM2T, a company among those located at the former Riverbank Army Ammunition plant, donated a check for $1,000.

That allowed another 160 children to enjoy the holiday season, said Tim Ogden, Riverbank Director of Economic Development. AM2T (Advanced Materials & Manufacturing Technologies) researches and develops engineered materials for next generation, high performance commercial and military applications.

Other highlights of the toy giveaway event included the firefighters positioning a fire truck in the Santa Fe and Fourth Street intersection for inspections by children. They also reportedly provided the peanut brittle and bags of nuts for the festivities.

Students from Riverbank High School plus some local students attending Modesto Junior College and Stanislaus State University sorted and bagged the toys the day before and staffed the tables on the evening of the distribution.

Sno-white Drive-In owner Daryl Daniel turned up with hot dogs for all the volunteers.