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Salida-based “Secret Santa” Program is in full swing and needs your help

Now in its 15th year, Baba’s Magical Christmas is a referral-based, “Secret Santa” program in Salida and participation has a deadline: December 16.

Baba’s Magical Christmas, a program of Chaffee Cares. Courtesy logo

The concept is simple: local agencies select children and their families in need, listing age, gender, their necessities and their wishes. The items are selected by the Baba’s team and tags for them are placed on “giving trees” at downtown Salida stores. While they’re already out gift-buying, shoppers select one or more tags and their purchases are later wrapped by volunteers.

This year’s giving trees are at Kaleidoscope Toys, Salida Books, Salida Mountain Sports, Corvus, The Little Red Tricycle and Drift and Amble, all on F Street in Salida.

The deadline to purchase gifts is December 16 — just two weeks away. This year, Baba’s (together with their partners from the Salida High School Student Council) will provide gift boxes to a total of 90 children and their families.

According to founder Shannon Nelson, “Right now what we need most is to have folks shop at the giving trees and/or make monetary donations to allow us to buy and place more gifts.” Nelson adds that a complete package consists of toys, clothing, books, and food, noting that books are highly-prized items.

Salida firefighters wait as Baba’s Magical Christmas families arrive to pick up their gift boxes in 2021. Shannon Nelson photo

“The families with younger kids pick up their gift boxes from the Salida fire station and have a chance to check out the fire trucks and have cookies,” Nelson added. “They have been doing this for several years and the firefighters have as much fun as the kids!”

Tax-deductible, cash donations may be made through Baba’s 501(c)(3) parent nonprofit Chaffee Cares.  Simply select “Baba’s Magical Christmas” when you make the donation.

SHS Student Council members “Adopt a Student” once again

For the second year, 20 members of the Salida High School Student Council are again partnering with Baba’s, adding their own contributions of money and time. Each member is assigned the code numbers, ages, and genders of two students to “adopt”. The council members each commit to raise $300 by asking for donations from businesses, and family members, or pulling from their own pockets.

With their funds pooled, council members converged a few weeks ago at Walmart for a frenzied day of shopping for both needs (clothing) and wants (lots of LEGO toys).

All this week, the team has met at the early hour of 7:00 a.m. for an hour of gift wrapping before school starts. These older recipients and their siblings will be given their gift bags at school, a few days before break.

The project is led by SHS Student Body President Lane Baker and Vice President Skyler Margos, with support from teacher/advisor Haley Hume. The group includes many seniors but also members from all the SHS grade levels — several have worked on this for multiple years. Baker describes the project as the biggest that the SHS Student Council tackles all year apart from Homecoming.

Asked what the council members enjoy the most about the Baba’s Magical Christmas project, Baker had this to say: “It brings us a lot of joy to be able to provide for these kids. It’s really special to be able to give that much, especially in the holiday season.”

“It’s a fun time with the whole group and brings us closer together,” she added, noting that it’s common in school for people to form social groups based on their interests or backgrounds. With this project “kids come together from all across the school – they work well together and have a good time too,” said Baker.

Baba’s Magic Christmas has grown since 2008

Created by Shannon Nelson in 2008 in memory of her mother, launching as a “kitchen table” project with friends and family, over the years Baba’s has grown with many community volunteers. Baba’s Magical Christmas has now evolved into a year-round 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Chaffee Cares. “We strive to never turn away a child or family in need,” Nelson says.

All recipients are in the Salida school district and are recommended to the program by the Early Childhood Center, Longfellow Elementary, the ESL Team, Family & Youth Initiatives, Salida Middle School, Salida High School, and Horizons Exploratory Academy. The program is completely anonymous; the students and families will not know where the gift boxes came from. It runs as a totally volunteer-based effort, with 100 percent of donations to Baba’s going directly to those in need.

“We’re fortunate that the downtown merchants hosting the giving trees do a great job and we have a good team in place,” said Nelson. Those wishing to volunteer with logistics can contact Shannon Nelson at 719-239-1318.

Featured image: Wrapped gifts are readied for Baba’s Magical Christmas. Shannon Nelson photo