More than 200 individuals and groups are volunteering their time to make sure Indian reservations and communities throughout the West have Christmas under wraps.
The American Indian Services-Lehi Foundation, a Provo-based chapter of a nationwide service organization, has recruited families and individuals to help wrap thousands of gifts that have been donated by local businesses.The foundation is holding its annual Wrap Night tonight, and though the response from local residents - including some Indian students at both Brigham Young University and Utah Valley Community College - has been overwhelming, more volunteers are needed and more Wrap Nights will be held, director Dale Tingey said.
"We've had had more than 10,000 gifts donated. This is really a huge operation, and I doubt we'll be able to get all the gifts wrapped in this one evening. We'll be doing this again, I'm sure."
Salt Lake's Western Toy Co. donated children's toys and games, Provo's Eagle Marketing provided children's books, Tingey said. The Empire Fruit Co. of Mesa, Ariz., donated one ton of oranges and 100 cases of potato chips to the charity effort."It's very encouraging to see responses like these from businesses, especially for such a worthy cause," he said.
From those contributions, the local foundation has amassed some 6,000 pounds of candy, the same amount in chocolate, nuts and fruits and between 3,000 to 4,000 children's toys, Tingey said. All those goods - in the form of presents and "goodie bags" - will be shipped out to reservations and communities throughout the United States.
American Indian Services is a non-profit organization that relies on charitable contributions for its funding and staffing. During its 20 years in Utah County, the group has run its Christmas program - including holding a large dinner and performing a Christmas Pageant - every year, Tingey said.
"The pageant itself involves the Nativity and is in narrative form, which we supply, then we have them sing traditional carols and songs of the proper spirit.
"We service about 45 to 50 Indian reservations and communities with the program, and board members take the gifts down to the reservations personally."
For example, Tingey, a retired BYU professor, has helped deliver gifts to a Supai group near the bottom of the Grand Canyon for the past four Christmases - even though the only transportation down to that community is by horseback.
"It's very rewarding, and the tribe members themselves seem to enjoy it quite well," he said.
In addition to its Christmas operations, national chapters of AIS and the Lehi Foundation help out reservations with farming projects and medical services.
"A lot of medical clinics donate out-of-date medical equipment and supplies, which enable us to run our own clinics in Mexico and Guatemala," he said.
Volunteers are still needed for Tuesday night's event, which will be held at the Edgemont Stake Center, 2950 N. Canyon Road. Wrapping paper and toys will be ready for the wrappers at 7 p.m.
For more information on future Wrap Nights or on the group itself, contact the foundation at 375-1777.