PASO ROBLES — Six-year-old twins Jenevieve and Joshua Jalbert can barely see over the table covered with stuffed animals.
The twins greet each Day of Giving guests with a big smile and then go to work.
“I know just what you need,” said Jenevieve as she looks over the table before grabbing a plush, cuddly tan teddy bear and handing it to the woman across the table, who smiles and nods in agreement.
The scene repeats itself a couple of hundred times for the nearly 400 families signed up for the 25th annual event inside of the Frontier Building of the Paso Robles Event Center on Saturday, Dec. 14.
“Our job is to get everyone a home,” said the twins’ father, Scott.
The free event is put on each year by the Toy Bank of Greater Paso Robles with plenty of help from the San Luis Obispo County chapter of Coats for Kids and the Salvation Army. Families with children in Paso Robles, San Miguel, Shandon, Bradley, and Heritage Ranch receive toys, clothes and gift cards at the Day of Giving. Libby Lemm and her husband Rollie started the local Toy Bank and the Day of Giving.
The Jalberts, who are from Templeton, are just a few of the many volunteers helping the event run smoothly.
“They have been coming since they were 3 years old,” Scott said. “They wake up excited to come each year.”
Nearly every helper is a seasoned Day of Giving professional, having donated time each year to help make the holidays brighter for people in the area.
“It’s awesome,” said Sherryl Goddard, of Paso Robles. “It’s all for the kids and families that need us. We couldn’t do it without the support of the community. Each year everyone is so giving.”
Officially there were 390 families signed up for the Day of Giving in Paso Robles. Families pre-register and receive a card with a specific time to show up at the Paso Robles Event Center.
Once they arrive, they are paired with a volunteer escort who makes sure they get everything they need from the Toy Bank, Salvation Army and Coats for Kids to make Christmas a little easier on their household.
This was Denise Trejo’s fifth year being an escort. Her mother and sister also volunteer.
“It’s become a family tradition for us,” said Trejo, who works at Paso Robles medical office. “We take the families around and give them ideas. Help them pick out what to get. It’s a lot of fun.”
Thousands of unwrapped name-brand toys are organized on tables by gender and age inside one half the Frontier Building for parents to pick from and place in their bag.
In addition to the toys, stuffed animals and family games, each person also receives a backpack with school supplies and stocking stuffers. Salvation Army provides a $20 gift card for families. Parents also chose from racks stuffed with new and gently used coats and sweaters.
Youth board members from must! charities were stationed in the Coats for Kids area. Each youth board member is assigned a school. Throughout the year, they collect clothing from their school for the event.
“It’s nice that they get to be part of the entire process,” said Becky Gray, must! charities executive director.
On their way out of the Event Center, families could enter a drawing to win one of more than 70 bicycles for children of various ages.
In addition to being escorts, volunteers from throughout the county restocked the tables and the clothes racks.
“I love it,” said Andy DeVoss, of Atascadero, who was restocking a toy table with his wife, Danita. “Seeing their smiling faces and their eyes light up when you help them find just the right toy. That is when you know it will be a good match.”