Natomas Answers The Holiday Call

THE NATOMAS BUZZ | @natomasbuzz

‘Tis the season to give and Natomas organizations both large and small are answering the holiday call.

Local Girl Scout Brownie Troop 1366 and Daisy Troop 337 are putting growing leadership skills to work by leading a food drive for The Sacramento Food Bank and collecting hundreds of pounds of food. The girls collect non-perishable food by going door-to-door asking for donations and by overseeing two donation barrels placed in the community.

This year, donations are up.

“We already filled one barrel and people are being very generous this holiday,” said Susan Ross, Brownie co-leader.

The girls still need dried grains and beans, whole wheat pasta, soups, canned fruit or vegetables, canned meat, cereal, snack bars and peanut butter. And while the girls will earn a philanthropist badge for their efforts, they would collect food without the accolades.


“They enjoy it,” said Ross. “They ask every year to do it again.”

Her daughter Kiley, 8, said their efforts are contagious.

“I like going around and asking people,” she said. “They always answer ‘yes‘.

Co-troop leader Karen Bartells added, “It’s been neat to see every year how they understand just a little bit more about what they are doing and why they are doing it.”

Julie Cheline, a Natomas mom of two youngsters changes a lot of diapers and can’t imagine having to ration them because of cost. She doesn’t want other moms to worry either.

Cheline and the Natomas Park MOMS Club is collecting diapers for the Sacramento Children’s Home Nursery Center. Donors can bring diapers – packaged or unpackagedin any size, to Bella Bru Cafe, It’s a Grind and Kids Park in Natomas.

“Babies with enough diapers are healthier and happier which leads to fewer problems in the home,” said Cheline. “Dirty diapers can create more tension and can lead to increased stress and (potentially) child abuse.”

But donations have been a little slim to date.

“We definitely need more,” said Cheline. “No one has called yet to say a donation box is full. If someone’s kid has outgrown diapers bring them in … We’ll take anything.”


One could say Stanford Settlement officials are a lot like Scrooge – the reformed Christmas Day Scrooge, that is. The neighborhood center’s “Operation Cratchit” holiday gift basket program collects and provides items for thousands in need.

Last year, the organization and its volunteers handed out 1,600 gift baskets, benefiting 2,800 people. Organizers expect to serve more than 700 families this winter.

“We are making good on our promise of having enough food and gifts for the kids this year,” said Julie Rhoten, children and teen programs coordinator.

Baskets include new toys, wrapping paper, non-perishable food and cash donations for grocery store gift certificates. Donations for the baskets are being accepted through Dec. 20. Toys are needed children especially need gifts for babies up to 2 years old and and children ages 10 and up.

Stanford Settlement serves youth and seniors living in Natomas, Gardenland, Northgate and North Sacramento. Operation Cratchit is named for character Tiny Tim’s family in Charles Dickens holiday classic, “A Christmas Carol.”

“I’ve been here for 23 years,” said Rhoten. “I think what is special for me, is seeing families who I know are going through hard times, be able to have a little pressure taken off of them during the holidays.”

Sorrow during the holidays can be overwhelming, but Kylee Lillich Charitable Giving Tree strives to brighten the lives of children who are needy, grieving or experiencing an illness.

“It helps to know that people care when you are experiencing something horrible in your life,” said Tracy Lillich, of Natomas. “I do it because people did it for me. I do it because it’s a way to keep her spirit alive.”

The organization is named after Lillich’s 4-year-old daughter who died 10 years ago. Businesses, churches and schools throughout the Sacramento region display “giving trees” decorated with wish ornaments which donors pick and fulfill.

This year, more than 90 volunteers helped grant wishes, many of whom are parents who also lost a child. At last count, 435 kids’ ornaments are on display and in need of donated gifts, Lillich said. Donations are due today, Dec. 14 but will continue to be accepted as long as there are unfulfilled wishes.

Many of the children have lost a sibling or a parent. Referrals come from Shriners Hospital for Children, UC Davis Medical Center, Kaiser Permanente and Sutter hospitals.

“Every year it comes together, I wonder ‘how are we going to pull this off,’” Lillich said. “There are always angels that help make it work.”

The GreenHouse’s staff and volunteers want the holiday shopping experience to be fun for everybody. This year, the center is hosting a Melvin’s Hope Christmas Store where families in need can buy a toy worth up to $25 for a $2 donation.

“We try to bring an experience for parents. (Especially), being in the community and knowing that people have a hard time making ends meet and buying things for their kids at Christmas is a struggle,” said Kacie Stratton, executive director. “By coming here, they get to pick out that toy. They get to wrap that toy and they get to watch their child open what they picked out.”

Volunteers greet shoppers with holiday music, free gift wrapping and hot cocoa. The center seeks volunteer carolers to sing as well.

Stratton said the non-profit center has hit its mark of nearly 800 donated toys. But they still need volunteers this Saturday, Dec. 15 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. to man the store.

The non-profit community center’s holiday program serves American River Village, Natomas Court and River Garden Estates residents.

“Even though we don’t need more toys, if people still want to give towards The GreenHouse, we will very gladly accept cash donations toward our after-school programs,” said Stratton.

Natomas Unified School District has started a new holiday tradition for its students in foster care. The district currently has nearly 53 students living in foster homes.

Children’s stocking have been hung in the school district education center where workers and school board members can adopt a student and make donations to “Project Holiday Stockings” til Wednesday, Dec. 19 through the student services department.

Said Superintendent Chris Evans in a letter to district employees, “These students are some of our most vulnerable and are in need of school supplies, gift cards, socks, personal hygiene items, candy, etc. to brighten their holidays.

Brownie and Daisy Food Drive

  • Java Court Neighborhood holiday light display
  • The Club at Natomas Park, 2101 Club Center Dr.

Diaper Donations

  • Bella Bru Cafe,4680 Natomas Blvd. (916) 928-1770
  • It’s a Grind, 2731 Del Paso Road #100 (916) 675-1068
  • Kids Park, 4401 Gateway Park Blvd. #100 (916) 575-9004

Operation Cratchit
Stanford Settlement Neighborhood Center, 450 West El Camino Ave.
Call (916) 927-1303 ext. 107

The GreenHouse
2201 Northview Drive, (916) 402-7978

Interested volunteers, contact Emily at [email protected]

The Kylee Lillich Giving Tree

4827 Verena Lane, (916) 747-9555

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