NORTH CARROLL Jaycees were generous Santa Clauses on Friday evening, thanks to a community service project headed by Rumi Swick.
The money from fund-raisers, including candy sales and a "basket of cheer" raffle, and donations went toward providing Christmas help for four families.
"We've just loaded six huge boxes of food and have another van full of gifts, toys; it overflows," Craig Swick, Rumi's husband, said Friday night. "This is a project we all like. It's what we work for all year."
Donations still were arriving as Jaycees packed trucks at the Hampstead Bowling Center. Someone dropped off an extra $6 after bowling. There were gift certificates. And next door, at the Greenmount Station Restaurant, raffle tickets were sold out.
"We've had an overwhelming response," said Jaycees member Dan Stephens.
Vicki Wisner, another Jaycees member who was stuffing envelopes with money and gift certificates, said, "We've spent at least $800 and some people have been giving $100 donations." She had met the families a few weeks ago.
"We delivered [food] at Thanksgiving, and my God, they were in bad shape. We know they need this," she said.
Area businesses that donated included Weis Markets, Greenmount Station, Hampstead Liquors, Maurer & Miller Meats, Festival Foods, The Canopy Restaurant, Liquor Barn of Taneytown, The Coon Club, Ron's Automotive, Knobloch Insurance, Ron Richards and Manchester Auto Parts. The Hampstead Bowling Center was used as a staging area.
Families, who were recommended by social services workers, had given shopping lists to the Jaycees.
"We're providing food, clothes, toys. There are things you take for granted, like diapers, paper towels, clothes baskets. A little bit of everything, to hopefully last a while," Mr. Swick said.
In addition, the Jaycees were able to provide a few dreams.
"One kid really wanted a Game Boy, and you know how expensive that is," Mr. Stephens said. "But our anonymous Santa bought it, plus a game. He's been out looking for a racetrack, even up to York, Pa.
"He's got a big heart. He thinks that Christmas is about toys, and when those kids wake up, they'll want toys. So that's what he's bringing."
The Christmas project was the idea of Rumi Swick, who moved in May to Maryland from California with her husband. They had been Jaycees in Michigan, Ohio and California. Three months ago, they joined the North Carroll chapter.
"My wife jumped in right away. This has been her special project," said Mr. Swick.
The Jaycees began long ago as a men's organization, the Junior Chamber of Commerce, and has evolved into an organization for professional men and women ages 18 to 39. A teen spinoff called J-Teens involves students ages 13 to 18.
Melanie Poff, age 15, is president of the J-Teens in Taneytown and came with the Wisners to help the North Carroll chapter.
"I've been adopted into the family of Jaycees, and help go shopping," she said. She joined the Jaycees two years ago.
On Saturday, she was to be an elf in her own neighborhood, giving gifts and food to nine families.
"Leadership and organization is what Jaycees are all about," Mr. Swick said. "The whole idea is to stay within your own community and help out."
The Jaycees are known for helping start the Special Olympics.
North Carroll Jaycees are seeking members who want fellowship while developing leadership skills in service to their community. Members are mostly small-business owners, Mrs. Wisner said.
"We need younger members now to keep it going," she said.
Seasoned members like the Wisners hold memberships in both the North Carroll and Taneytown chapters. Mr. Stephens is a member of the Westminster and Towson chapters.
Chris Richards, son of Greenmount Station owner Ron Richards, ambled in. The trucks and van had been packed. All that had been missing was the man in the red velvet suit, and he had just arrived. It finally was time for the Jaycees' Christmas to begin.
North Carroll Jaycees meet at 7 p.m. every third Thursday at the Hampstead Town Hall. For information on joining, call North Carroll President Bobbi Hartlove at 239-6077.