The Johnstown Northridge Food Pantry's Adopt-a-Family program helped 71 families have a Merry Christmas this year.

The Johnstown Northridge Food Pantry's Adopt-a-Family program helped 71 families have a Merry Christmas this year.

Requests from families were up by about 20 from 2007, when 54 families asked for help, according to Ruth Krumm, food pantry director.

The Adopt-a-Family program has been in operation for the last 20 years, Krumm said, to help families in need within the Johnstown and Northridge school districts.

In addition to individuals who adopted families for Christmas, Johnstown's Tech Rubber covered the requests of three families this year.

"There are a lot of organizations that took a family or two," Krumm said. "We received a whole lot of toys from Toys-R-Us, and I'm not sure how we got them."

While Krumm was in one area of the food pantry at the Johnstown Independent Baptist Church, bags of toys from Toys-R-Us were delivered, literally from a "secret Santa," in another area of the pantry.

"I was in the food room and they were where we have our fresh vegetables," she said. "I would like to thank them. There were a lot of toys in bags, expensive toys. We used them for families who got their lists in late. That helped us get all the kids covered."

Johnstown's Church of the Ascension also assisted the pantry's Adopt-a-Family with a special Christmas giving tree.

"They had me give them names and the youth group made decorations for the tree, pinning the number (of family members) who needed help," Krumm said. "Some people only wanted one child to adopt. A lot of the families and organizations couldn't take an entire family."

In addition to adopting families for Christmas, Krumm said many food donations have been delivered to the pantry.

"We're pretty good so far, at least until after the first of the year," she said.

The pantry is closed for the holiday. It will reopen on Jan. 2.

It wasn't only the food pantry that helped local families. Johnstown American Legion Post 254 helped a record number of 170 children from 53 families during its annual distribution of toys on Dec. 16 at the Johnstown Recreation Center.

Legion Commander Don Jakeway said the toy distribution went smoothly when people packed the center to select toys that had been collected throughout the community and purchased from donations.

In 2007, the program assisted 42 families and 114 children within the Johnstown and Northridge school districts, including the communities of Croton, Homer, Alexandria and Johnstown.