Community Comes Together to Make Christmas Special for Over 300 Children
Printed in the Santa Maria Times, December 22, 2016
The Central Coast Rescue Mission teamed up with local churches, businesses and community members to provide gifts to more than 300 children Wednesday just in time for the holidays.
Families with their children were welcomed into Santa Maria Foursquare Church, where they received a wrapped gift, something the Rescue Mission has been doing for over a decade.
The toys, which were purchased and donated by local businesses and people, were donated to the Rescue Mission, where volunteers from the organization’s drug recovery program for men wrapped and labeled them with gender and age groups.
“Our goal is to share the hope that we found in Jesus with the community,” said Jon Bronkowski, interim team leader for the Rescue Mission. “This is our community, and we want to be sure they’re taken care of. We have the opportunity to hand out 301 gifts to 301 kids.”
As registered families checked in, a volunteer from either the Rescue Mission or Foursquare Church took their age and gender information and matched them with a corresponding wrapped and labeled gift and Christmas card.
Bronkowski said while they ask donors to aim for $25 gifts, some people donated multiple drones from Sharper Image and a few remote control cars.
“The community and our partners really stepped up,” Bronkowski said.
This toy giveaway was more personal for the volunteers who made it happen, as most of the recipients are families who the Rescue Mission or Foursquare Church works with on a regular basis.
Luznadia Ortiz, 9, said she is very excited to open her gifts on Christmas.
“When people give me these presents, I can play with them,” Ortiz said. “I always love my presents.”
Her mother, Esperanza Lopez, said receiving Christmas gifts, provided by the Rescue Mission, for the last 10 years has helped her during the holidays.
With translation assistance provided by Veronica Arreola, wife of the Foursquare Church pastor, Lopez explained that having four kids can present a challenge when it comes to buying gifts for all of them.
“Every year, they’re just waiting for Christmas,” Lopez said. “The kids are excited for the gifts. It helps a lot.”
Lopez and her children also are looking forward to their Christmas tradition of making tamales and pozole together while presents are opened.
Another family spoke about how grateful they are for the donations after participating in the event for the first time this year.
“It’s special because (the community) thought of them,” said Adela Sanchez-Hernandez, a Santa Maria mother of five children, translated through Arreola. “They were very thoughtful.”
She added, “This way they have something to open on Christmas and are not left without gifts.”
To the community members or businesses who donated gifts that went to her family, Sanchez-Hernandez said: “Thank you very much for the gifts because they brought smiles to my kids. It’s awesome, and it’s a blessing.”
Her daughter, Lisbet Sanchez, 8, said, “I’m excited because there might be special surprises inside.”
She said if she could tell her anonymous donor one thing, she would say, “Thank you to whoever got my presents. I’ll be happy because of them.”