Feeding the hungry

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If shopping for gifts for a large family seems like a lot of work, try putting together 250 Christmas baskets for residents of Loomis, Penryn, Ophir, Newcastle and Rocklin. That's what a good number of civic-minded citizens working with the Loomis Basin Christmas Basket program have been doing this month. And Gary Doupnik Manufacturing Inc. has been the hub of activity of the all-volunteer effort for the last four years. When the program that Cora Cockrum founded in the mid-1980s and continued to run for two decades needed a coordinator, it was taken on as a senior project by Del Oro High School students Cole Doupnik and Seth Knapp. Doupnik family members have been coordinating the project ever since. During the holiday season they turn the Rippey Road warehouse, which usually holds materials for constructing portable buildings, into a food pantry, toy collection center, assembly line and distribution site. "Each Christmas basket will consist of a holiday dinner, several extra non-perishable food items and toys for children," Chairman Sherrie Doupnik Edgar said. Students from Loomis, Franklin, Placer and Antelope Meadows Elementary Schools, as well as Del Oro and Rocklin high schools, have collected canned food as part of the KCRA Kids Can food drive. Non-perishable food items have also been donated by local churches, organizations and individuals, including Mandarin orange growers. "People especially like fresh fruit," Edgar said. Donations were also collected at the Loomis Day Before Thanksgiving Day Parade a few weeks ago. There will also be donation bins at the Christmas tree lighting ceremony this Saturday, Dec. 9, at Loomis Plaza. Jennifer Doupnik, Edgar's sister-in-law and toy drive coordinator, emphasized that "Whoever feels the need this year," and lives in the Loomis Basin Basket program designated area, is eligible. Those in Auburn or Roseville should apply at their local program. Doupnik expects to supply more than 400 area children with toys. New, unwrapped toys can be dropped off at the Loomis Fire District station on Horseshoe Bar Road, near Taylor, or at the Doupnik Manufacturing on Rippey Road. The deadline is Friday, Dec. 15. Popular donation ideas are CD players, remote control cars, purses for teens, arts and craft sets, Lego sets, baby dolls and board games or game sets. Toys for boys 9 years old and above, as well as for teenagers, are needed. New and slightly used books for all age groups are appreciated, as every child will also receive at least one book to go along with a toy. Each child also receives a stuffed animal. School supplies and batteries are always useful. Other items needed include personal hygiene items such as lotions, soaps, deodorant and shampoos. Don't know what to donate? Cash makes a wonderful donation, as it can be used to purchase additional food items or to purchase gifts for age groups where donations are lacking, Doupnik explained. "Lions Club members from Loomis and Newcastle, as well as the Rocklin Rotary, are consistent donors," Edgar added. "Several businesses have been very good with cash donations." Baskets will be assembled at the Doupnik warehouse from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, Dec. 16. Volunteers are needed to fill the baskets according to needs listed on applications. The Christmas baskets will be distributed the following day, signaling the end, for another year, of a worthwhile program that spreads good will and cheer to those in need. Info Box What: Loomis Christmas Baskets Where: Gary Doupnik Manufacturing, 3237 Rippey Road, Loomis. When: Basket assembly 10 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Dec. 16; Basket distribution Sunday, Dec. 17. Call: 652-6261 to apply for a basket. Donations: Mail checks to Loomis Basin Christmas Baskets 2006, P.O. Box 678, Loomis, CA. 95650.