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Outreach Efforts Gain Steam
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Holidays can be tough times for those in need, or for those far away from home.

To that end, local efforts are seeking to fill some needs, either in the form of gifts for area children, items for soldiers serving overseas, or food and clothing for local families.

The Escalon Ministerial Association is in the midst of its annual holiday collection, with money being used to provide food vouchers to families so they can purchase a holiday meal. The vouchers are good at local supermarkets and the amount is based on the size of the family. The association gets names of families in need from sources including schools and churches. All donations can be made to the care of Escalon Ministerial Association, P.O. Box 1, Escalon, CA 95320.

Last year several thousand dollars was donated to the cause and officials said this year's need is just as great.

Escalon Fire Department, meanwhile, serves as the hub for the upcoming Toys for Tots giveaway, which is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 19 starting at 10 a.m. at the firehouse. Families had to sign up in advance for the program and collection of new, unwrapped toys continues until Monday, Dec. 17.

A fire department spokesman said so far, the boxes haven't been filled as quickly as last year, but they are hoping the final few days will see residents adding toys so the effort will be successful.

Collection boxes are at several spots around the community, from businesses to schools.

One of the collection sites is at Stor Kwik on First Street, which is also involved in collecting Coats for Kids and is serving as a point of contact for the Soldier's Angels program.

Through that effort, they are collecting needed items for soldiers, such as toiletries, snack foods, and fun items.

Toiletries requested, which will be shipped to men and women serving in the military, include foot powder, hand and baby wipes, lip balm, eye drops, toothpaste and toothbrushes, disposable razors and some items specifically for women including feminine hygiene products and body wash. Playing cards, puzzle books, magazines, Frisbees and DVDs are some of the fun items that can be donated. Food and snacks must be pre-packaged and the small, individual sizes are preferred, including microwavable foods, along with cookies and crackers, beef jerky, pudding cups, hard candy, nuts and dried fruits.

Escalon schools are taking part in holiday collections as well; contact individual school sites to see if they need canned foods, toys or coats.