Santa Claus dons a jaunty red suit while "Santa" Okonski sports a purple Ravens jersey. Both have the same goal: ensuring that every child receives toys and sugarplums on Christmas Day.

For Betty Okonski, of Southwest Emergency Services, the work to provide holiday treasures for area youngsters began months ago as she shopped for bargains and stockpiled her bounty at the SWES building. Despite her determination to assist local families in dire straits, Okonski reports that her gift sacks are far from full.

"We need caring folks to help make up our shortfall," she said. "It's the only way we can guarantee toys for every child on Giveaway Day, Dec. 14."

Her priorities are: LEGOs, Polly Pockets dolls, Matchbox cars, footballs, basketballs, small electronic games and gift cards for teens' use at local stores. Okonski is also seeking stocking stuffers.


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Deliver your unwrapped donations weekdays, 9 a.m. to noon, and Wednesday, Dec. 5, 6 to 8 p.m., at 1201 Maple Ave., before Dec. 11. Or drop them off next door at Arbutus United Methodist Church, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays; 9 a.m. to noon on Sundays.

Call Santa's hotline, 410-247-8154, for more information.

The children's corner

Little ones may shop for loved ones, assisted by patient adults, at Lansdowne United Methodist Church's Children's Gift Store, from 9 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Dec. 1, at 114 Lavern Ave. Priced for small budgets, gifts are wrapped on site. Treats included.

Call 410-242-9156 or 410-247-4624.

Our Lady of Victory's seasoned chefs serve a breakfast with St. Nick, from 8 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Dec. 1, in the parish school, 4414 Wilkens Ave. Eggs, pancakes, fruit and drinks cost $6 for adults; $4 for ages 3 to 12.

Event features story time, crafts, raffles, face painting and door prizes, too.

Jingle 410-242-3688.

Breakfast with Santa in the Ascension Parish Hall, 4601 Maple Ave., runs 9 to 11 a.m., Sunday, Dec. 2. Adults pay $6; ages 12 and under, $3. A menu of egg dishes, pancakes, meats and beverages, photos with St. Nick and other treats are included.

Reserve a seat with joe.mherbert@gmail.com.

Santa and Mrs. Claus pose with children for photos when Halethorpe-Relay United Methodist Church's breakfast in their honor gets underway from 9 a.m. to noon, Dec. 8, at 4513 Ridge Ave. Hotcakes, sausage, fruit and juice are on the menu with holiday craft making and gifts available. Freewill offerings accepted.

Dash on over or call 410-242-5918 for directions.

Santa arrives for breakfast in Violetville United Methodist Church, 3648 Coolidge Ave., from 9 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Dec. 8. Love offerings accepted.

Sweet and savory entrees assuage his hunger and yours. Baked treats and holiday gifts sell separately. Photos available, too.

Walk in or call 410-525-3191 or 410-247-3249.

The advent of Advent