Jovanni Flores can barely hold his brand new toys with his hands. Flores is one of the hundreds of children who went to the Galilee Center in Mecca with the hope of getting a brand new toy for Christmas.
“[I received a ]100 games, a giant Star Wars book, candy and a car,” Flores said.
Lines seemed endless, but little by little, families made their way through the crowds to find the perfect gift. This is the eight year the Galilee Center hosts a Christmas toy give away. Claudia Castorena is one of the organization’s co-founders and she said this is such a rewarding experience.
“We do it because we love to serve,” Castorena said. “People in this end of the valley are hardworking people but still living under the poverty line.
Organizers and volunteers were struggling to collect toys this year. They were expecting around 1,200 kids, but almost 2,000 showed up.
“Thank goodness donations of toys arrived at the last minute,” Castorena said. “Even this morning we received donations, so we are going to have enough for everyone.”
Some families showed up as early as 6 in the morning, but for many parents, seeing their children smile on Christmas Day is worth the wait.
Marisol Mosqueda showed up at 6:30 a.m. to make sure they had a good spot in line.
“A neighbor recommended coming early because it can get very crowded,” she said.
Her family made sure they still had a fun morning, so they came well prepared.
“We brought tamales in our truck,” Mosqueda said.
Rosa Perez also waited in line for hours, but to her, this was a Christmas miracle for her and her family.
“Sometimes we can’t afford giving gifts to our children, so it makes me happy to see that some people give that opportunity to our children,” Perez said.
There were over 50 volunteers helping mobilize lines to make sure every child received a gift on Christmas Day. Castorena said they are already preparing to host this giveaway next year.