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Many hands make light work as staff from Second Harvest Food Bank and Cal Fire firefighters and family members get packages ready at San Andreas Community Wednesday morning. (Shmuel Thaler/Sentinel)

WATSONVILLE -- Families, bundled up against the cold, lined up Wednesday morning as crews unloaded pallets of groceries, broke open cartons of T-shirts and bagged small gifts of toiletries and household goods.

It looked like Christmas at the San Andreas Community, an apartment complex for farmworkers on San Andreas Road. And that was the idea.

Throughout the day, the scene was repeated at similar communities in the Pajaro Valley. By late afternoon, the annual Christmas Project had spread holiday cheer to more than 300 families.

"It's just to bring a little bit of sharing of the joy of Christmas," said Gladys Anderson, founder of the 34-year-old project.

Anderson was working for Child Protection Services in 1978, when a little girl from a migrant family told her she wanted a doll for Christmas. Anderson made sure the girl's wish was fulfilled and that her family had gifts as well.

"It was one family that first year, but it kept growing," said Anderson, a red Santa hat atop her head and a list in her hand.

Since 1995, Second Harvest Food Bank has been part of the effort. On Thursday, the nonprofit handed out a carton of beans, rice, peanut butter, tuna and other staples, along with a roasting chicken and a large bag of fresh fruits and vegetables to each family.


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It's a tough season for farmworkers. The berries are harvested; the fields sit empty. With no work, money is in short supply. That's what made the distribution so important to Maria Rocha, who stood in the line at San Andreas with her two children, 13-year-old Jennifer and 1-year-old Haley.

"We'll have something for our kids to eat," Rocha said, as she waited her turn. "We're very happy."

Anderson said the project will return Saturday with toys and other gifts for children, the donations collected from people who picked up wishes written on paper angels. This year, she said, there were a lot of requests for clothes and shoes.

"One person asked me for a warm blanket," Anderson said. "And believe me, they need to get it."

Follow Sentinel reporter Donna Jones on Twitter at Twitter.com/DonnaJonesSCS

HOW TO HELP

Christmas Project

WHAT: The project distributes gifts and food to farmworker families
NEEDED: Large sweatshirts (no red or blue) to give to teens
CONTACT: Gladys Anderson at 831-426-2264