A few days before he embarks on his global gift-giving trip on Christmas Eve, Santa will visit the children of Garden City.
That's a big part of the city's annual Christmas Giveaway tradition: The Jolly Old Elf rides a classic fire engine in a parade through the streets, while a busload of elves hands out books, toys and candy to hundreds of children.
"We actually had kids running along with us. They were just so excited," said Deb Davis, a Boise resident who helped out at last year's giveaway.
Organizers of this year's Dec. 22 event - delivering holiday food and presents to 12 needy families - set up six Santa stops where the parade will halt to hand out gifts to others.
"It will help make sure we catch all the kids, and they know we're coming," said coordinator Amanda Brumbaugh. "That way nobody misses out."
Now in its 17th year, the Christmas Giveaway is a big production. It's led by the Garden City Police Officers Association, but it's the community effort that makes it successful.
Individuals and local businesses typically contribute $3,500 to $5,000 in cash, and many donate gifts.
The Garden City Chamber of Commerce holds a raffle to raise money for toys and other gifts. Last year, it raised $2,600, including a $500 match from Idaho Power.
Raffle prizes this year included a 50-inch TV donated by Wal-Mart and a Kindle Fire contributed by the chamber. The raffle raised $3,120, including Idaho Power's grant.
"We had several businesses spend $100 on raffle tickets," said Lisa Hunter, administrative assistant for the chamber.
PREPARATIONS BEGIN OVER THE SUMMER
Brumbaugh, 40, works for the state Division of Building Safety. Married to Garden City Detective John Brumbaugh, she got involved with the Christmas Giveaway about seven years ago.
She took over as coordinator last year. It's an eight-month project, with planning beginning in July and final thank yous going out in early February.
Brumbaugh estimated that about 150 people help make the giveaway happen, from donating cash and toys to wrapping presents and delivering them.
"A lot more companies stepped up this year - that was nice," Brumbaugh said. Seven businesses that have offices or stores in Garden City are helping out.
Some of the businesses will buy all of the presents for one of the 12 families.
The Rotary Club of Eagle/Garden City provides each family with fixings for a Christmas meal. Organizers of the giveaway also provide a second box with a two-week supply of basic staples, including cereal, rice and fresh vegetables.
"I'm a big coupon person. I started shopping for the food ahead of time with coupons and sales to save money," Brumbaugh said.
On the Friday before the giveaway, volunteers will gather to wrap the presents.
WRAPPED AND READY
One of the goals is to help families with some basic needs.
"Do they need pants, underwear, socks, shirts, a warm jacket?" Brumbaugh said. "We make sure they have all of those first, then we talk about toys."
The public donates dolls, stuffed animals and toys, and the money raised in the Garden City raffle purchases more. They've never run out of toys during the parade.
"We've always worried about that," Brumbaugh said. "I think it's just a blessing. Somebody is watching over us."
The impact of the Christmas Giveaway is long-lasting for kids.
"You hear them talk about it the rest of the year," said Tyler Domeny, president of the Garden City Police Officers Association. "A lot of times they see us in an enforcement action. It's good for them to see us in a different light."
Katy Moeller: 377-6413