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LEBANON — With only three weeks until Christmas, Santa Claus is asking for a little help for the Lebanon Area Christmas Toy Program based at the River Center.

More than 600 children received toys last year, but so far, donations are down significantly, causing Santa to send out an S.O.S. message to the community.

“The man who picks up toys at our local drop-off locations says we are down about 50 percent,” said River Center volunteer Becky Lang. “Last year we gave out more than 1,200 toys to 211 households. Our goal is to have enough toys to provide at least one large and one small gift per child.”

Lang said toys for children ages 8 and older, especially those 12 or older, are needed.

“We seem to get a lot of toys for the younger kids, but it’s a little more difficult to buy for the older kids,” Lang said. “We have asked members of our church to focus on the older kids as well this year.”

Lang said she is always amazed by the outpouring of support from all facets of the community.

“We are so blessed to see how many community members step up for this program,” Lang said. “There are so many company employees and people who volunteer. It is truly wonderful and all of the toys stay here.”

Monday afternoon, members of Girl Scout Troop 21317 were busy sorting toys at the River Center’s cavernous storage room.

“It’s really fun,” said Rayanna Morris, 11. “We get to help give kids presents that will make them happy at Christmas.”

The Road Maggots motorcycle group will hold its annual toy run Sunday, starting at Walgreen’s Pharmacy. Last year, more than 200 motorcycles participated. Community members are invited to drop off new unwrapped toys at the pharmacy’s parking lot.

The Road Maggots will ride uptown from Walgreens and then return to the River Center to unload the toys. There will be a chili feed for participants and the Road Maggots will also give out Christmas stockings to children.

The public is invited to bring toys to the event as well.

The Edward C. Allworth Veterans Home will provide dessert at the event.

Lang said there are giving trees at Samaritan Health Services, Lowe’s and Santiam Lumber.

Donation barrels also can be found at Go Wireless, Lebanon Animal Hospital, Les Schwab, Citizens Bank, Umpqua Bank, Key Bank, the Senior Center, SamFit, COMP-Northwest, Pennington Seed, The River Center, Linn Gear, Economy Supply, Lebanon Fire District, The Lobby, Wells Fargo Bank, Parkside Apartments, Mega Foods, Northwest Apparel and Graphics, Sugar Vibes, Hometown Furniture and Clearance Center, the Salvation Army and Operation Homefront.

River Center pastor Warren Stroup said that since last year, family members are allowed to “shop” for toys at the River Center.

“We will have volunteers who will walk parents through the toy area,” Stroup said. “This seems to work out very well. Before, we didn’t know what each child might want.”

The program has had many versions over the decades, but the River Center has sponsored it for the last eight years.

Toy Program participants must live in the Lebanon School District and must bring identification showing current address, or a utility bill that shows name and address.

Adults must be the children’s parents or legal guardians and they must live together.

Toys will be distributed at the River Center, 3000 South Santiam Highway, from 9 a.m. until noon and 6-9 p.m. Dec. 13, 14 and 15.

Contact Linn County reporter Alex Paul at 541-812-6114.

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