PASO ROBLES — Elves from the Paso Robles Police Department and the City of Paso Robles Recreation Services handed out over 300 stockings full of toys during the Super Stocking Drive-Thru Giveaway on Saturday, Dec. 5.

Vehicles filled with excited children and parents drove through the “Holiday Candyland” set up at the Centennial Park parking lot starting at noon for a safe holiday drive-thru celebration in place of the annual Santa Sleigh event.

Lynda Plescia, Recreation Services Manager, said, “Usually Santa comes out in his sled to Centennial, to Sherwood and Oak Park and this year in order to reduce gathering and make sure that people are socially distanced, they felt that it was best that Santa didn’t come out in person.”

To make things as normal and safe as possible for children, the Super Stocking Drive-Thru Giveaway was created.

The parking lot at Centennial Park was turned into a holiday Candyland with the Grinch and a dancing Christmas Tree to keep children entertained as they waited.

“Every family that pulled up had smiles on their faces,” said Heather Stephenson, Paso Robles City Recreation Services Coordinator.

The recreation department stuffed over 300 stockings with toys donated by several local sponsors.

Stocking donations were anonymous but were received from generous community members.

The drive-thru event is part of the Recreation Services Paso Play on Wheels program. The program is made possible by the Recreation Enhances Community (REC) Foundation, Paso Pediatric Dental, the City of Paso Robles, and CaliKids Fitness.

Recreation Services had its elves handing out recess kits to “help kids stay active and healthy while distance learning during winter break.”

Kits included frisbees, sidewalk chalk, and a link to free online movement classes just for kids from local CaliKids fitness instructors.

Santa Specs were included in the children’s kits as well. The lenses in the Santa Specs magically transform Christmas lights into mini-holiday images, undoubtedly entertaining for all ages.

“It’s the holidays, and people are looking for things to do that are safe, and this was just something that warmed everyone’s heart, to have a fun event that made us feel a little bit like Christmas is here,” Stephenson said.

Between PRPD and the Recreation Department, over 500 gifts were given to children throughout the drive-thru.

Families were lined up from Nickerson Drive to Niblick Road before the event even started.

Stephenson joyfully said, “The kids were so excited, and they were so adorable — I think they were just excited to have something to do.”

Sadly, there were not enough gifts for all the families who attended the drive-thru.

When the event was over, there were still a few blocks of cars waiting for the Stocking Drive-Thru.

“That was the most heartbreaking part,” said Stephenson.

To add to the holiday fun, through December, a Santa Mailbox is set up in the lobby at Centennial Park.

The magical mailbox doubles as a perfect holiday photo-op and will be outside the park lobby from Nov. 30 through Dec. 17.

Letter drop-off hours are Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Anyone who drops off a letter to Santa will also receive a goodie bag from a park employee, including a pair of Santa Specs!

“Just making it a fun kick-off to the holiday season with lots of holiday goodies and giveaways,” Plescia laughed joyfully.

Donations for the stockings can be made anytime throughout the year. Toy donations can be dropped off to Shelley Reeger’s attention at the Emergency Services Center at 900 Park Street.

PRPD will happily accept any new toy donations that will fit into a stocking. Reeger also collects school supply donations on behalf of the police department for local students.

All donations can be dropped off to Shelley Reeger’s attention.

Reeger can be reached at sreeger@prcity.com or 805-227-7455.

Anyone interested in making a donation or becoming a sponsor for the Paso Play on Wheels program can contact Heather Stephenson at hstephenson@prcity.com.

For more information on the Super Stocking Drive-Thru Giveaway and Santa’s Mailbox, visit prcity.com/recreation or visit the Paso Robles Recreation Services Facebook events page or call the Paso Robles Recreation Services at 805-237-3988.

Getting through this together, Paso Robles