Martha Crockroft (foreground) and Jeff Marks wrap gifts for the annual Adopt-A-Family Christmas Gift Program at the St. Vincent de Paul Juneau complex on Saturday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Martha Crockroft (foreground) and Jeff Marks wrap gifts for the annual Adopt-A-Family Christmas Gift Program at the St. Vincent de Paul Juneau complex on Saturday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Getting an early start on helping Santa and people in need of good cheer

Hundreds of Southeast families get food, gifts as need, donations high in Juneau’s goodwill efforts.

Martha Crockroft can’t say for sure, but she’s guessing she’s wrapped more than 200 donated presents a year for 15 or so years, so the number of kids tearing the paper off gifts on Christmas morning she’s handled is, well, a lot.

She was wrapping a coat for a young child at mid-morning Saturday in the community room at the St. Vincent de Paul Juneau complex on Teal Street, surrounded by hundreds of items still to be wrapped and picked up by families as part of the organization’s annual Adopt-A-Family Christmas Gift Program.

Stacked throughout the room were gifts ranging from video games to Matchbook planes (and, yes, probably some cars) to a vintage Princess Diana doll with authenticity documents awaiting decisions about which youths would be good matches for such gifts. While many of the items were timeless classics, Crockroft said both the wish lists and items donated have changed notably during her many years participating in the program.

“If you look over on that side — these from the toy drive — there’s things I’ve never even seen in my life,” she said.

Crockroft and two other people at the center on Saturday morning said they are planning to be there Christmas Eve and Christmas Day as well, fulfilling what has turned out to be an unusually high number of requests — and enough donations to match.

“We’re looking at 116 families so far, 330 kids so far, but we’re still taking requests,” said SVDPJ Executive Volunteer Scot Allen, who’s overseeing this year’s effort. “I had four families sign up yesterday.”

Dozens of police officers and “volunteer elves” gather at the Juneau Police Department station on Dec. 9 for a briefing before taking about 50 local children out for the annual “Shop with a Cop” organized by the Capital City Chapter of Alaska Peace Officers Association. (Photo courtesy of the Juneau Police Department)

Dozens of police officers and “volunteer elves” gather at the Juneau Police Department station on Dec. 9 for a briefing before taking about 50 local children out for the annual “Shop with a Cop” organized by the Capital City Chapter of Alaska Peace Officers Association. (Photo courtesy of the Juneau Police Department)

The total appears to be the second-most people ever for the program, Allen said.

“I’m not sure why that is,” he said. “Maybe the COVID money’s run out, we have a small PFD, prices have doubled in the last couple of years.”

Helping out for the first time was Jeff Marks, a resident at SVDPJ’s Smith Hall since 2018, who calls that living arrangement a blessing and participating in this year’s Adopt-A-Family a chance to do many things — including improving his gift-wrapping skills.

“We’ve been having fun in-between packaging,” he said. “It isn’t that hard physically. It’s more a mental thing after five or six hours.”

In addition to the gifts and food provided by the Adapt-A-Family program, other local efforts also have provided holiday cheer to hundreds of households in Juneau and other Southeast Alaska communities.

About 35 law enforcement officers “and as many volunteer elves” spent Dec. 9 with about 50 Juneau youths during the annual “Shop with a Cop” organized by the Capital City Chapter of Alaska Peace Officers Association, with donations from residents and businesses making the gifts possible.

Volunteers prepare hundreds of bags of holiday food for The Salvation Army Juneau Corps annual Christmas distribution Dec. 16, with about 350 families in Juneau receiving food and gifts. (Photo by Gina Halverson / Salvation Army Juneau Corps)

Volunteers prepare hundreds of bags of holiday food for The Salvation Army Juneau Corps annual Christmas distribution Dec. 16, with about 350 families in Juneau receiving food and gifts. (Photo by Gina Halverson / Salvation Army Juneau Corps)

An estimated 500 families – 350 in Juneau and 150 in other Southeast communities including Hoonah, Kake, Angoon and Wrangell — were part of the annual distribution of gifts and food by The Salvation Army Juneau Corps, according to Maj. Shane Halverson, co-director of the local chapter. The distribution in Juneau that occurred last Saturday was for somewhat fewer than the estimated 400 families last year — in contrast with requests at SVDPJ — “but it’s still a massive number.”

About 25 to 30 volunteers helped load the hundreds of bags filled with holiday food, and another eight to 12 helped prepare the toys distributed to families, said Maj. Gina Halverson, the other local co-director. She said donations this year allowed them to fulfill all the anticipated need and then some.

“It went really well,” she said. “We had a really great show up, and our overflow we did over 35 to 40 families that just kind of walked in and said ‘hey, can you help us out’ and we were able to fill all those as well.”

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or (907) 957-2306.

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