SolarReserve, non-profits unite to make Christmas special in Tonopah

Tonopah volunteers from multiple organizations are helping make this Christmas a special one for those in need.

Over two days, at least 30 of them spent hours preparing Christmas-meal boxes, bagging fruits and vegetables and wrapping toys so that no one would go without in the community.

“Our little town is amazing,” volunteer Pam Heemstra said as she helped prepare meal boxes. “Our little community is awesome. They truly care about one another here. I feel blessed to be part of this community.”

The volunteers put together 150 Christmas meals for the five-hour distribution event Dec. 17 in the Tonopah Convention Center.

The efforts included volunteers from the Salvation Army, SolarReserve, NyE Communities Coalition, Toys for Tots and others, including the 4 R Kids nonprofit group and the First Baptist Church of Tonopah. The donations also included 50 hams bought by the Tonopah Elks Lodge.

The distribution capped weeks of efforts by the volunteers, including on the evening of Dec. 16 when many gathered to get the food and toys ready for the following day.

“This is our third annual Operation Christmas,” volunteer Mary Grikas, SolarReserve’s vice president of global communications, said as she worked with Salvation Army coordinator Shambra Jones.

“The Christmas box is a Christmas meal,” Jones said. “It will have turkey, ham, potatoes, stuffing, gravy, all of the fixings.”

In addition to the meal boxes and hundreds of produce bags, former longtime Tonopah Town Board member Cindy Kaminski was assisting the community’s senior citizens with smaller food portions, plus produce, Jones said. Kaminski’s efforts were on behalf of the St. Patrick’s Church ladies’ guild and the Tonopah Rotary.

Teaming with SolarReserve

The Salvation Army partnered with SolarReserve, owner of the Tonopah area’s Crescent Dunes solar plant, and Toys for Tots for the Christmas presents.

“The parents are going to be able to come in, shop for their kids and be able to go home with things,” Jones said.

SolarReserve had about 10 of its volunteers on hand while many employees in the company’s Santa Monica, California headquarters donated toys for Tonopah.

“We also made personal donations to some of the (Tonopah) charities,” Grikas said, adding that the multiple donations — including a corporate donation — totaled close to $15,000.

PIC Group Inc., SolarReserve’s operations and maintenance contractor, also collected toys for donation, she added.

Hands-on efforts

At Operation Christmas, SolarReserve volunteers were part of multiple efforts.

“We’re going to load produce bags,” Grikas said. “We’re going to help the families select their Christmas gifts for the kids. We’re going to wrap Christmas gifts for them. We drove out (from California) so we could bring all of the toys and money donations that we collected.”

“I like doing the hands-on projects because that way, we get out in the community,” Grikas said, noting the recent mural paintings at Tonopah Elementary/Middle School, artwork spearheaded by SolarReserve.

“I don’t want to just give money,” she said. “I want to make sure that SolarReserve is really integrated into the community, that they know who we are, know that we’re really committed and involved.”

“That they know us, they see our faces and recognize us as part of the town,” Grikas added.

She credits the Salvation Army’s Jones with bringing all of the various charities together into one Christmas assistance program.

“So we’re serving the needs of all of the seniors, as well as the families and children,” Grikas said of the outcome. “It’s a consolidated effort.”

“That way, every single family that needs help during the holiday season is covered, as opposed to maybe one family would be covered by two different charities. Now we know that every family is evenly covered throughout. So we’re really excited by that.”

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