Anabel Noj first got into the Santa's elf business last year, and now the co-owner of Dice & Dolls Vintage is hooked.

"It was amazing handing out toys last year," she said. "It was a real tear-jerker. Really heart-warming."

Noj's shop is one of dozens of venues in town that are collecting toys for sick and disadvantaged children this holiday season.

Today's second annual Dice & Dolls Toy Drive features food, a car show, carnival games and live music from eight different bands.

Admission is $2 for teens and adults (children 12 and younger are free), or one unwrapped new toy for a family of four. All proceeds benefit the A. Miriam Jamison Children's Center, which provides temporary emergency shelter for abused, neglected and exploited children.

There is always a need for such events every year, say social service agencies, but demand has been greater the last few years because of the economic downturn.

The Marine Toys for Tots Foundation says Kern County agencies have provided referrals to more than 9,000 gift recipients this year, up from 8,600 last year.

And that's with screening by social workers, said 1st Sgt. Paulin Gonzalez, the local Toys for Tots coordinator.

"If we allowed everyone to sign up who comes to us, it would easily be 15,000 to 20,000, but we let the welfare and social service offices nominate the most needy," he said.

The Bakersfield area is known for rising to such challenges.

It's the kind of place that produces the likes of Shaina Looker and Sierra Moore, who at the mere age of 12 are already in their fourth year collecting toys at their annual event, the S&S Toy Drive.

In partnership with a local roller skating rink, the girls are collecting toys Wednesday for the Alliance Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault. Admission to the rink is discounted for skaters who bring a new toy.

The girls started the toy drive as a Girl Scouts project to earn a community service badge. It was supposed to be a one-time thing, but they got a little carried away.

"It helped a lot of people, so we decided to just keep doing it," said Moore.

Agencies that benefit from such events say they are deeply grateful for individuals and businesses that come together to bring a little holiday cheer to young people who otherwise wouldn't have much.

"The toys we get are going to children from broken homes, so oftentimes when they first get here, they're scared and deeply traumatized," said Frances Brothers, group counselor and acting coordinator of the Jamison Center. "We give them gifts to comfort them at first arrival, and on birthdays, and at Christmas. We try to make it as homelike as possible, so really, we can use toys year-round."