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Annual Holiday Food Drive Serves Record Number of Recipients [Video]

Organizers for this year's 33rd annual Santa Comes to Westlake/Agoura & Beyond say over 200 recipients will benefit from this year's event.

A constant drizzle did not dampen the spirits of the hundreds of participants who turned out at the Do-it Center for Saturday's annual Santa Comes to Westlake/Agoura & Beyond holiday food drive.

Over 200 recipients from Thousand Oaks to Calabasas will benefit from the donations for the holidays, a record, according co-chair Allison Nelson.

"We've partnered this year with the Christian Cavelry Church and they had [a big] list of names," said Nelson.

Nelson said she continues to marvel at the community spirit. "This event has been going on for so long that it's just embedded into our community," she said.

The program recognizes a local "hero," and this year, none other than the food drive founder himself, George Annino, was the guest of honor. Annino and the Agoura Optimist Club founded the charity in 1980 to brighten the holiday season for local families in need with surprise deliveries. Since then, the annual food drive has helped over 21,000 families.  

"The real inspiration for this came from my parents," Annino told Patch. "They were always giving to others and helping people who needed it."

Annino, an Oak Park resident, is known as "the wine whisperer" at Trader Joe's.

"If you want to know how to pair the perfect wine with a meal, come by and see me," he said.

The event, organized by the Westlake Village Jr. Women's Club since 2009, was the culmination of a month-long food drive that began at local schools, businesses, churches and synagogues.

While members from the various Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops bagged canned goods, entertainment was provided by groups like the Agoura High Spirit Team, the Oak Park Cheer Team, Thrive Dance Center and the Westlake Elementary School Chorus. Agoura High's Alia Christian sang the National Anthem.

Volunteers waiting in cars took turns loading up their trunks with bagged goods to deliver to designated homes.

Christine Bazylevsky travelled from Malibu with her 7-year-old daughter Alexa to teach her about the spirit of giving.

"I wanted her to know that it doesn't just fall from the sky," she said.

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