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Paying it forward to Santa's helpers in Ontario

Tim Toy presents $500 to Cheryl Farley for her work providing Christmas presents for needy children in the lower Treasure Valley.

During the holidays, there are a lot of projects that reach out to the less fortunate. Many are run by large charities, but in Ontario, there's one that's run by a single woman, a nurse, Cheryl Farley.

With a small budget but a lot of friends, Cheryl quietly brings Christmas to hundreds of children a year. The children's names come from a variety of sources, but all would have little or no Christmas without Cheryl's efforts.

To help Cheryl, Tim Toy from Mountain America Credit Union gave her a $500 "Pay It Forward." Tim exclaimed as he surveyed the donations that have already come in, “It’s exciting. You do awesome things. Really incredible.”

Each December, Cheryl's house becomes, if not Santa's workshop, then his warehouse. By Christmas Eve, the living room, kitchen, dining room and den are full of presents. “My husband gets a little claustrophobic,” Cheryl admits with a grin.

All the donations are new. Cheryl says they come from businesses and individuals alike. They drop off donations at her home and even her place of work. “People bring stuff to the hospital . There's always stuff in the break room for me.”

As donations of clothing and toys come in, Cheryl's volunteers sort them by size and age. Then Cheryl checks her list (Yes, just like Santa) and in the days before Christmas, they assemble the gift boxes and begin distribution, usually not finishing until Christmas Eve.

She started her Santa project during a time when surgery had left her house-bound. “It made me get up,” she said. “It made me focus on getting better because I was really sick ... And ... I'd given up.”

The project was therapy and she seized upon it with enthusiasm.

Cheryl said, “It's great when you see the faces of the kids and the people it's going to ... It's amazing.”

Last year Cheryl and her merry gang of helpers provided Christmas presents to 352 kids in the lower Treasure Valley. This year she hopes to give even more.

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