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Holiday basket program donations stay strong

By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
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The offices of the Rocklin Fire Station are littered with goodwill. “There are baby dolls, basketballs and big stuffed dogs,” said Fire Chief Bill Mikesell. Community leaders from the Rocklin Fire Department and the Rocklin Unified School District joined South Placer Rotary Club for a Christmas Basket Program for more than two dozen needy Rocklin families. Mikesell said people are surprised Rocklin needs such a program. “People don’t go hungry in Rocklin,” Mikesell said. “That’s what people think, but you can find them.” Right now volunteers are delivering toys, warm coats and gift cards for food and other necessities to families identified by the schools as needing a little extra help for the holidays. In its fourth year, the program supports more families every year. Mikesell thought the recession would be a burden on the operation but it hasn’t. “The needs are up and we thought the giving would be down this year, but people have really come through,” Mikesell said. His wife Colleen and their three children are also volunteering any way they can - wrapping gifts, organizing coat sizes and writing letters to the families from the Rotary club explaining the gift program. “A lot of families have hit upon hard times with job losses,” Colleen Mikesell said. “The need is there and it absolutely is a blessing to us to help and give as much as it is for those who receive.” Just last week Bill Mikesell said he only had three toys but he wasn’t worried. “The good Lord sees fit to bring it all together,” Colleen Mikesell said. By Friday, the network of volunteers found hundreds of items for the baskets. Bill Mikesell said he’s amazed how the need is met every year. Last year it was just two days before Christmas and all the baskets were delivered but about 100 coats remained. “My heart was broken because there was so much left,” Bill Mikesell said. He said he gets chills remembering what happened next. “A lady walked through the door of the station and said, ‘can you help our women’s shelter this year for Christmas?’” Bill Mikesell said. “I said, ‘I’ve been waiting for you.’” Bill Mikesell said right now, concerned citizens can still bring non-perishable food items and new or unwrapped toys to any Rocklin fire house and they will be put to good use. “Whatever we get, will not go to waste,” he said.