It’s the same Christmas food drive that Toby Jaramillo started over 50 years ago. Damien Ocampo is heading it up again, and it looks as though he wants to keep it going.

“I took it over last year in memory of Toby and Ermie and the Jaramillo family,” he said. “We’re going to keep it going. Hopefully for years to come.”

The 52nd Annual Food Drive for Christmas is underway and Ocampo wants it to be another good year for those families needing a little help.

“There is still a need in the community,” Ocampo said. “We want to provide a complete Christmas dinner for those families in need.”

The food drive will be dedicated to the memory of the Jaramillo family, who had been part of the food drive since its beginning. Toby passed away in July 2020. Ermie in 2017.

“We always thought it was special for the community. I volunteered for Toby when he and Ermie and the family did it,” Ocampo said. “When Toby had passed and they appointed me to his position on the city council, I felt like it was only right. He was my friend. He was my neighbor for years, and I just felt like we should step up and do it in remembrance of him and his family.

We’ve got tons of Santa’s elves helping out.”

Again this year, Ocampo and his many Santa’s elves are collecting canned goods destined for the many gift baskets that go to families in need of a little assistance.

“If they’re in need or know somebody in need then can call my State Farm office and get registered for a food basket,” Ocampo said. “The Kiwanis Club is providing toys for all kids and then we have more groups that are jumping on board. The Rotary Club is going to provide books for the kids, as well. It’s the whole shebang. A Christmas meal plus gifts for the kids.”

File photo of Toby’s Christmas food bags three years ago.

Since the beginning, the food drive had grown from 10 families in 1969 to serving close to a predicted 200 this year.

“I hope we can achieve our goal this year, but it’s hard to predict,” Ocampo said. “Families need to get registered as soon as possible. If they aren’t registered then we wouldn’t have them on the list. We have the registrations at State Farm. They can call or they can swing by and pick up the form.”

Christmas food baskets will be handed out, drive-thru style, the morning of Saturday, Dec. 19, in the area behind San Miguel Church.

“This community’s been awesome,” Ocampo said. “Last year we had over 50 volunteers. This year we may have more than that.”

Those who would like to help out may drop off canned goods at the State Farm office, 1004 California Street.

Drop off hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Cash donations are also accepted.

“The cash donations will be used to buy the turkeys and other perishables like potatoes, beans and oranges,” Ocampo said.

For more information, contact Ocampo’s State Farm Insurance agency at 575-835-0001.