It’s hard for Oakdale Lions Club member Greg Rivera to place an exact year to when he began helping with the Lions Club Annual Children’s Christmas Shopping Tour, two decades … maybe.
As the event coordinator there is one thing he is most certain, as well as proud of – community. To be more specific, Rivera is abundantly proud of the community of Oakdale and the way in which it shows up, not just for the annual Lions hosted event, but in general.
This past Wednesday, just as they have for the last several years, the Oakdale Lions Club members, along with hundreds of area volunteers infiltrated K-Mart for a handful of hours in the way of shopping. The shopping, however, had little to do with their personal needs or own Christmas shopping lists; this shopping had everything to do with children.
This year, through the help of generous donations the local club was able to host close to 230 children in need with $125 shopping sprees, a visit with Santa and a pizza dinner.
“We sent out letters the day after Thanksgiving, which was tough this year,” Rivera reported of how funds are raised to host the event each year. “But man this community knows about this program.”
The coordinator shared there was a tighter window for collection this year as the event was moved up by a week so as not to conflict with school district holiday events.
In addition to the funds collected from the Thanksgiving mailing to the shopping date, money continues to be received post event. A collection which is helpful to give a boost to the following year’s event, said Rivera.
Volunteers were so abundant this year that a wait list had to be established for those ‘extras’ eager to chaperone.
Rivera shared by way of hiccups or challenges, there is little to report as the event now seems to run itself. Credit for the well-oiled machine partially goes to time and experience, yet largely goes to the Rumi Girls, who joined forces with the Lions and this event several years back.
“Their organization makes me look so good,” Rivera said of the women behind the scenes, keeping everything in order. “The whole community gets involved, it’s really thanks to the community that we can do this so well and so successfully each year.”
As time has passed and the word continues to spread, Oakdale Lions Club no longer has the need to partner with elementary school nurses for student names as they once did. Families, or persons knowing of need either stop in and see Rivera at his local F Street business, R & T Power Equipment or contact a Lion. Children ages newborn to 12 years are the target recipients of the shopping spree each year.
When asked how many people helped with the event this year, Rivera, in his no nonsense fashion answered honestly, “I have no idea how many people help. I don’t really care. I’m just glad everybody’s there to do it.”
To make donations toward the 2018 Annual Oakdale Lions Club Children’s Christmas Shopping Tour visit www.oakdalelions.org, or send checks to Oakdale Lions Club, PO Box 550, Oakdale, CA 95361.
“The spirit of Christmas lives in Oakdale,” Rivera said. “You never get sick of seeing how great Oakdale is.”