SANTA CRUZ >> Each Christmas, the Santa Cruz County 4-H leadership team tries to organize a holiday celebration for itself — a trip to the movie theater or a night at a holiday event.
But this year, the group — comprised of 18 members as young as 12 and as old as 24 — opted to spend the club’s funds on a family in need. The group — a branch of a national youth education organization — came up with the idea after someone suggested it at the monthly meeting in September.
“We figured this is a good way to give back to the community,” said Marjorie Garbini, 18, a 4-H member. “We like the idea of helping to give someone a good Christmas.”
Working with Times Publishing Group, the group adopted a family and estimated the cost of buying the gifts. The team adopted a family of five — a mother, her two children and their grandparents — and planned to shop for the gifts Dec. 13 at the Capitola Mall. During the span of a few hours, the team divided the list among themselves and spread out to shop. Because of the nature of the adopt a family program, members weren’t told their beneficiaries’ names. But the list include the ages of each member of the family as well as certain preferences.
The family’s requests were far from extravagant. Outside of request for toys from the kids — a 7-year-old girl and a 13-year-old boy — the family asked for pillows, towels, socks, blankets, jackets and pants.
Despite the simple list and the small budget, the team stretched every dollar. One group who stumbled on a good deal for pillows or pants would call another group to ask if there was a better price.
“I was really impressed that everyone was able to find things and not only find things but find them for a good price,” said Michaela Crill, 19.
The club does charity events throughout the year, such as canned food drives and volunteering at community projects, Crill said. But this year, the group went a step further for the holiday.
When it bought clothes at Macy’s, the group received extra discounts when sales clerks found out they were shopping for charity. Near the end of the day, when all the items were purchased and wrapped, there was about $60 leftover that the group put into extra gifts not on the list.
The goal of helping the family is in light with the goals of 4-H, which focuses on community service, said Robin Turnquist, adviser for the group.
“It’s a great learning experience for the kids to see how much they can get for the family,” she said.
Funds for the charitable endeavor were taken out of the club’s budget, which the group raises money for each year.