The head elf was worried. The toy workshops at Rowland High School were way behind their quota for the busy holiday season.

The Marines would arrive the next day to pick up the donations for their annual Toys for Tots campaign. Something had to be done.

"We usually collect 500 toys for the Marines, but we only had about 300 when I went to lunch," explained head elf and administrative assistant Christine Gonzalez. "I was disappointed because I thought there would be more need for the toys than ever."

Call it holiday procrastination, but her fellow elves got the message and got busy - really busy.

"It was like magic! People started streaming into the office with toys that afternoon," Gonzalez said, with a holiday twinkle in her eyes.

"Jose Camacho's Spanish classes brought 194 toys for the Toys for Tots," she continued. "That's the second year they've gathered the most."

Soon the high school had not only meet its goal, but had exceeded it handsomely. A total of 736 toys were gathered for the Marine Corps charity.

In fact, there were so many the Rowland Choir had to help the Marines load the trucks with the loads of presents.

The Marine sergeants were impressed by the high school's generosity. Dressed in their colorful dress uniforms, the sergeants were then serenaded with Christmas carols by the assembled choir.

But then the holiday spirit was flowing freely around the Rowland campus. The

staff and students worked on several charities.

Special projects instructor Kelli Baumonk spearheaded a drive to adopt 30 local families through the Family Resource Center.

"The students used the children's wish lists to buy clothes, toys, books, games and gift cards. Each child got a couple presents," Baumonk reported.

One of the families had six children, so two classes pooled their money for their gifts.

"Wendy Kikkawa's class volunteered to wrap all the presents. They were a big help," Baumonk added.

Nancy Ballantine at the Family Resource Center said the whole community came through for the Adopt A Family program.

"The schools and organizations like the Citrus Valley Health were very generous. We were able to help many families this year," Ballantine reported.

Ricio Guillen and the district's community liaisons put in many hours to make the Adopt-A-Family program such a success.

Earlier in the week, the high school's Interact Club had collected canned goods for the annual Holiday Basket program. Sponsored by the Walnut Valley Rotary Club, the program feeds more than 300 families during the holidays.

In the end, the head elf's anxiety turned out to be just holiday jitters. As usual, the Rowland elves didn't let Santa Claus down.

Big Red would fly on Christmas Eve with a sleigh full of gifts - courtesy of the Rowland Raiders.

Happy holidays!

(626) 962-8811, Ext. 2801