Christmas comes early for 500 Eastern Iowans needing extra hand - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Christmas comes early for 500 Eastern Iowans needing extra hand

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

Christmas came early for more than 500 families in Eastern Iowa on Saturday.

St. Vincent de Paul has been helping families in need through its "Christmas Basket Program" for the last 16 years, according to event organizer Karen Buchanan.

Hundreds packed inside the National Cattle Congress Pavilion in Waterloo before doors opened for shoppers at 9 a.m.  Shoppers were able to choose from a variety of toys and winter coats until 1 p.m.

No-one had to pay for any of the gifts because the items were donated through the Toys for Tots program and a collaborative effort from area businesses, churches and schools including Columbus High School in Waterloo.

Also available were boxes of food which included all the fixings for a holiday dinner.

Clinton Mullins of Cedar Falls shopped for his three children.

"Now I can give them a little more than what my paycheck can do so I appreciate it," Mullins said.

It was Mullins first time attending the event, and he left with bags full of presents for his kids. He said he was looking forward to his kids opening the gifts on Christmas.

"It's good to know that there's people in the community ready to reach out and help out," he said.

Buchanan said many volunteers have made a tradition out of the Christmas basket giveaway.

Tom Bogenski and his wife are two of them.

They've been volunteering during the event for the past few years.

"It's just so heartwarming," he said. "We just really have a great time doing it."

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