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Volunteers led by Kay Jensen hold a final planning meeting during the week prior to the big toy distribution event last Saturday.

 

Volunteers from Centerfield

to Snow College, from

Mayfield to Mt. Pleasant,

pitch in on toy distribution

By Rhett Wilkinson

Staff writer

12-9-2020

 

MANTI—Tracie Semadeni calls her an “angel.”

Semadeni, who lives in Manti, was talking about Kay Jensen, also of Manti, the chairwoman of the Sanpete Humanitarian Council, who has been assisting folks in Sanpete for more than 30 years as a mentor, organizer, volunteer and nurse.

For more than 15 years, Jensen has been a key organizer in efforts to provide Christmas gifts for children in Sanpete County who otherwise would go without.

Going back to the early 2000s, there has been a countywide Sub-for-Santa program, sponsored by the Sanpete Humanitarian Council. In 2013, Jensen and the Humanitarian Council also forged an alliance with Toys for Tots, a national program sponsored by the Marine Corps Reserve.

According to Jensen, the Humanitarian Council can better tailor services to parents’ needs “if we hang on to both programs.”

This year, toy distribution from the Exhibit Building at the Sanpete County Fairgrounds took on a different flavor from the past.

Last Saturday, Dec. 5, instead of parents parking their cars, walking into the building, and selecting toys, volunteers put the bags together.

Jensen and her volunteers served 157 families on Saturday, compared to 123 families last year.

Jensen believes the number of families who were served increased because of word-of-mouth.  She said that many volunteers told others where they would be to help out with distribution and invited people to come pick up toys.

“I also think a lot of people are having a difficult time—less money, less jobs,” Jensen said.

Did COVID-19 play a role?

Danny Castro pumps up a basketball that will go to a needy child.

“Definitely,” she said, “especially the way COVID has affected the economy.”

The volunteers, who arrived as early as 8:30 a.m. for an event scheduled to go until 6 p.m., came from Centerfield to Snow College, Mayfield to Mt. Pleasant. Jensen expressed pleasure with the diversity of towns represented by the volunteers.

Jensen noted that the “many good volunteers” included Latter-day Saint missionaries, Snow College students, Sterling Scholars from three high schools in the county and Miss Sanpete County.

“We’ve just had good people,” Jensen said. “We’ve always had good people, but this year seemed especially good.”

In terms of donations to the toy drive, Jensen found that folks were “more generous than ever before this

Ellie Westfall bags some toys during the Tots/Sub for Santa distribution to needy families last Saturday

year. I have really seen a lot of positive things with our community,” Jensen said. They “step up and help the needs in our county.”

Semadeni, a coordinator for the event, appreciated being able to help.

“For someone not having kids at home, this makes it fun,” Semadeni said. “Even more than if I did have kids at home. So I love it.”

Kaitlyn Ward, a senior at Manti High School, is in her fourth year of being on Jensen’s team.

“There are a lot of families out there who still need help even without the COVID stuff,” Ward said. “People have lost their jobs.”

Aspen Haas volunteered to fulfill a requirement in her interpersonal communications class at Snow College. But she also loves to give to other people because her parents divorced when she was relatively young and she “didn’t really get Christmases.” Neither of her parents had an education, so they couldn’t afford it.

“I believe everybody deserves to have good holiday time and quality gifts, so by doing this we can give back to the public a little bit,” Haas said.

Jensen expressed appreciation to the Sanpete County Fair Board for use of the Exhibition Building.

Jensen said she is moved to do Toys for Tots/Sub for Santa because of her relationship with volunteers, “mainly the kids” and the satisfaction she gets out of helping other people.

If someone wants to volunteer or needs help, they can reach Jensen at 835-8171.