Warrensburg With a Santa statue standing as a silent sentry behind her, Gloria “Bunny” Gonzales leaned over a table in her basement Oct. 5 and pulled a sheet of festive wrapping paper around a boxed toy doll.
For 25 years, she has devoted thousands of hours year-round to Operation Reindeer — a program that distributes toys and food to children and their families at Christmas time.
As she wrapped toys, she talked of how she now needs help, as some of her records of past years’ distributions have been lost.
Gonzales is asking that any family that was assisted through Operation Reindeer last year give her a call at her new phone number, 623-3424, preferably before 10 a.m. or after 3 p.m. Folks that seek to donate items or cash, or help out in other ways, are welcome to call, she said.
This week, Gonzales and her friends recalled how Operation Reindeer started a quarter-century ago in Junie’s Pub on Schroon River Road.
The first year, Gonzales just helped out Junie and Theresa Shaw. The second year, she took over the reins of the project, and she’s been organizing it since with the help of many men and women in the area, gonzales said.
“The women do the work while the men sit and drink beer,” she quipped.
Verna Baker Springer spoke about Gonzales’ selfless dedication to serving others, estimating she brightened the lives of 1,600 or more local children since the mid-1980s.
She noted that Gonzales buys hats and mittens — as well as toys — for each child on her list.
Gonzales added that Florence LaPoint of Warrensburg routinely donates a full school outfit for each child that’s on the Operation Reindeer roster.
Springer said Gonzales obtains a turkey for each family, as well as other fixings for a festive holiday dinner.
She takes this charitable effort further, Springer continued.
For every “latchkey” child, Gonzales tucks a jar of peanut butter and maybe some Spaghetti-Os into the food basket, so the young students can feed themselves when they are at home alone after school, Springer said.
“Bunny’s the most tender-hearted person I’ve ever met,” Springer said.
Verna Baker Springer (left) and Gloria ‘Bunny’ Gonzales wrap several toys Oct. 5 to be distributed to several dozen local families through the local Operation Reindeer program that Gonzales helped launch 25 years ago.
Photo by Thom Randall