The Kane County Volunteer Center is up to their eyeballs in puzzles, trucks, games, Barbies ... and a whole host of other toys to bring smiles to needy childrens’ faces Christmas morning.

And the deadline for us to help is fast approaching!

“We do have a Sub For Santa deadline of December 1,” said Volunteer Center Events Coordinator Vicki Hooper. “But the sooner the better!”

Hooper sat amid the huge clutter of toys stored in the back room of the old middle school. A large shipment of toys had been delivered the previous night, so Hooper, her daughter, grandson, and other recruited help were attempting to get Santa’s workshop organized.

While not new to being Santa’s helpers, after running the program for the past 10 years now, the volunteer center is still sometimes overwhelmed at the enormous holiday undertaking.

“We helped almost 500 children in Kanab, Fredonia and throughout Kane County last year,” said Hooper. “We also try to provide coats, shoes, clothes, socks, underwear and pajamas.”

That’s a lot of warm, smiling faces!

The volunteer center donates to and works with Toys for Tots for many of the toys. That requires center volunteers to do a toy pick-up in St. George for Utah recipients and Flagstaff for Fredonia, Arizona recipients. Hooper said schools in Kane County and Fredonia also do fundraising for Sub For Santa.

As for how the Kane County Volunteer Center find out who is in need, that’s accomplished in several ways. “We take referrals from churches, law enforcement, clergy, Southwest Public Health and schools,” explained Hooper. “People can also come in and refer themselves or others. The only thing we ask is that a (parent or guardian) of the recipient(s) make an agreement to volunteer 10 service hours in the upcoming year.”

Hooper said there’s plenty of volunteer opportunities in the county. “We feel that 10 hours is very little to ask. We spend on average $300-$350 on each kid.”

The Volunteer Center does other shopping for older children and teens, trying to take advantage of discounts and sales at department and outlet stores.

Donations come from a variety of corporate and private sources, as well as the city, county, churches and businesses. The parents come pick up the gifts at the Kane County Sheriff’s Office, or are delivered by law enforcement to outlying areas such as Duck Creek, Big Water and Bullfrog.

A major Sub For Santa fundraiser is held during this weekend’s Christmas Light Parade. The magical Wishing Lantern Launch will be on Saturday, November 25 at 8:30 p.m. in front of the courthouse. The Launch is a fundraising event sponsored by the Volunteer Center. Six hundred lanterns will be offered for sale, with proceeds going to the program.

“We raised about $1300 last year,” said Hooper. “Funds raised last year were split with the Kane County Assistance Program, which is also run on charitable donations by the Volunteer Center.”

Donations can be mailed or delivered to the Kane County Volunteer Center, Sub For Santa, 76 N Main St, Kanab, Utah 84741.

If you’d like to volunteer, or have questions concerning the Sub For Santa program, please contact vhooper@kane.utah.gov or call 644-3696 or 689-0829.