ROCKFORD, Illinois — Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford pitched in to help wrap Christmas gifts for needy families Dec. 23 and even got to meet Santa Claus and the many volunteers on hand to help parents choose presents for their children at St. Elizabeth Catholic Community Center’s Snowflake Shop.

The program, part of Catholic Charities in Rockford, allows needy families to select a toy, warm clothing items, a stuffed animal and snacks for their children at Christmas.

A local Protestant church, Forest City Church, partnered with Catholic Charities this year to provide both donations and volunteers. Volunteers from local churches and Catholic high schools don Santa hats and help check in shoppers, provide a cart, shopping assistance and gift-wrapping to parents.

Pre-registered families paid just $5 to be able to select age-appropriate presents and treats for their children. Some 400 families signed up for the Snowflake Shop. After those who had pre-registered shopped, the shop planned to stay open till all the items were gone, according to a news release.

The director of St. Elizabeth Center said as many as 800 people could visit the center Dec. 23. The center’s food pantry also was operating its regular distribution of food for the holidays.

After shopping, parents enjoyed free coffee and doughnuts while the gifts they chose were wrapped by volunteers. No children were allowed in the Snowflake Shop, but for those who needed to bring their children with them, the playcenter was open and staffed with volunteers so parents could shop in private and not spoil the surprise the presents always provide.

For Sarah Mattson of St. Rita of Cascia Parish in Rockford and her daughter Natalie, a student at Boylan Central Catholic High School, said this was their 10th year volunteering at St. Elizabeth Center.

“It just seems to grow each year and we look forward to this,” Mattson said.