Operation Santa
A family meets Santa and Mrs. Claus on Dec. 14 during this year’s Operation Santa. (Courtesy of Chris Lopez)

KING CITY — Santa’s arrival by helicopter brought joy to hundreds of families from South Monterey County this Christmas, as he and a team of helpers delivered gifts and other goodies to their smiling faces.

Monterey County Supervisor Chris Lopez and California Water Service once again teamed up with Fort Hunter Liggett to present Operation Santa for the third consecutive year.

With support from other community organizations, along with more than 100 volunteers, the heartwarming event took place Dec. 14 at the Salinas Valley Fairgrounds in King City.

Nearly 500 families were served and 1,500 toys were distributed to children, all of whom were pre-selected based on financial need. Each family also received a Pozole meal kit, thanks to the Food Bank for Monterey County.

“Another year of absolute magic is in the books with Operation Santa,” Lopez said. “Santa arrived by helicopter thanks to Mercy Air and Fort Hunter Liggett, CalWater and Chevron came through huge for our families again with the key support.”

Lopez added that the distribution would not have been possible “without the incredible volunteer corps” from community members, schools, Rotary and Rotary Interact. He also gave a shoutout to the men and women of King City Police Department, Greenfield Police Department, King City Fire Department and Monterey County Sheriff’s Office for their hard work.

In a post on Facebook, Fort Hunter Liggett gave thanks to its Garrison Command Team, Mercy Air and the “numerous volunteers and staff members for leading the charge and making memories with the community.”

“This partnership between Fort Hunter Liggett and the amazing people of King City is a beacon of unity,” added the military base.

On Dec. 19, Lopez and his team took all the spare toys from this year’s Operation Santa to continue spreading joy in the Salinas Valley. They left a significant amount with the staff at Natividad Medical Center’s pediatrics unit in Salinas, and then visited the communities of Chualar and Gonzales to pass out the rest to local children and families.

“The list of Thank You’s is two miles long but so is the list of smiles and memories,” Lopez said. “My feet are tired, my face hurts from smiling, and my heart is full. Thank you South County.”

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Ryan Cronk is the managing editor for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers general news for South Monterey County and the surrounding communities.


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