The North Pole has moved to the South Bay.
Sunnyvale Community Services (SCS) opened its annual Community Christmas Center Thursday to families in need of help this holiday season.
Dozens of green and red shelves are filled with Barbie dolls, pajamas, teddy bears, sports balls and other gifts waiting to be given away. SCS volunteers give each family a shopping cart to store three toys per child. Gifts for infants and teenagers are ready to be wrapped and placed under the tree.
The organization expects to serve more than 1,000 families this year, an increase from the 925 they served in 2015. SCS says rising rental prices have increased the number of families looking for assistance.
“Every family wants to provide a wonderful holiday experience for their children, and so families will buy the presents if they can afford it or if they can’t afford it,” said Carolyn Alexander, director of operations at Sunnyvale Community Services. "Then what ends up happening is when January shows up, they don’t have enough money to cover rent.
“That’s what we’re in the business to do — to make sure people can cover their rent and to provide a wonderful experience for their children and their families,” Alexander added.
In addition to gifts, families receive up to two weeks worth of food. Produce, canned goods, holiday foods and meat are given to each family.
Client Courtney Messick has picked put presents at the Christmas Center two years in a row. She has 6-year-old twin daughters.
“Both have Christmas lists a mile long, of course, so this definitely helps out and helps take the stress off,” said Messick. She spent 40 minutes in the center gathering gifts and food items for the holidays.
“It helps fill in the gaps, where we’re unable to provide certain things like Christmas presents, food and everything that goes along with the holidays. It’s hard to make ends meet,” Messick said.
The center is open to families and seniors from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. until Dec. 12. SCS has also opened a special holiday section this year for homeless clients.
An estimated $50,000 in in-kind donations fill the center shelves with toys, food and household products. Food was also purchased by SCS and donated from Second Harvest Food Bank.
Eligible families must live in Sunnyvale and meet income requirements based on family size. Anyone who qualifies can contact SCS and shop at the Christmas Center before all holiday services shut down Dec. 22.
Donations are still being collected. While SCS has hundreds of toys, more are always needed, especially for boys and girls ages 8 to 18.