I may not have a Christmas tree at home this year but my Christmas happened yesterday! Our amazing La Comadre and Del Sol Group team led by Lisette Medina-Duarte and Cindy Borbon organized the most beautiful event for the kids in the neighborhood I grew up in, Huntington Park and Southeast Cities. We had over 240 people attend the Holiday Celebration and we gifted over 150 children gifts that they wanted!! The children ranged from 2 months to 17 years old. Their lists included everything from socks, shoes, sweaters to footballs, soccer cleats, books, backpacks. Some kids wanted electronics such as laptops, kindles or iPhones. We couldn’t get laptops or iPhones- maybe we can get some of those donated next year!
We specifically sought families who are in need. We got to meet them: single mothers, unemployed folks, children in the foster care system, injured fathers who can’t work, children with disabilities and families who have been separated by inhumane immigration politics.
One Mother approached me with her 3 children, including 1 in a wheelchair, and thanked me for everything saying that “as a single mom, there’s no way I could have done this for them right now.” Her heartfelt gratitude left me speechless and with tears in my eyes.
It’s for families like hers that we rallied our community of friends to sponsor every single child. This allowed us to see our vision of having every child treated with dignity and receive a gift that they desired not simply given any random toy that had been donated. The toy donation drives with the Bell High Alumni Association, VFW Post 1944, Mike Molina and the Fabulocos and Redwood Room in Maywood gave us the “inventory” to match what kids wanted with what had been donated. We wanted everyone to feel special.
We organized and rallied support to secure what what we didn’t have. All of our community stepped in! Dozens of people sent their donations thanks to our mobilizing our community on social media! Our dear friend Ulises Sanchez rallied his network to help find donations and sponsors when it seemed we might not have enough. Some friends like Frank from Mitchell Printing and Comedian Ernie G brought their donations to the event.
Thanks to the generosity of all of you, every single child received at least one of the gifts on their wishlist. I wish you could see and feel their joy!!
We especially want to thank Bell City Councilman Nestor Enrique Valencia who donated hundreds of books, backpacks and shoes to add to the kids’ loot! Thanks to him and the Bell Resident Club, the parents were gifted shoes which none of us expected! Their gratitude is something I’ll never forget.
The Women’s Club of Huntington Park came through big! The Women’s Club was our first committed partner and they were absolutely amazing. Earlier this year, they honored me with the Woman of the Year Award for my work in education and for helping bring school choice options to the community I grew up in and love so much. The award made me reflect not only on what I have done before, but more importantly what I can do moving forward. This Holiday event is just the beginning.
We partnered with local special needs families, Miles Elementary School, Aspire Charter Middle School and the CA Charters Association’s Giovany Hernandez, parent organizer, who helped find the students. Thank you to these incredible Special Needs Mothers, Sylvia Lopez, Kristie Rodriguez, Griselda Hernandez and Karla Meador. Thank you to our friends Jose Beltran, Cynthia Pérez, Janet Jarquin, Monica Harmon and Adela Medina. Thank you to our “Oh Hell No” Team who literally made everything happen in the last couple of hours when 20 people didn’t keep their commitment to the kids. Thank you Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo, Jennie Carreon, Compton College Trustee Sonia Lopez, Lynwood Unified School Board Member Alma Renteria, GSGLA Troop 994, Socorro Mata, Hector Villalobos, Rebecca Medina Pleitez Angie Espinosa, and Gilda Gonzalez for being incredible teammates!
I want to thank my family too because our work becomes their work sacrifice. Thank you my sunshine, Miquitzli, my goddaughter Mariah and my heart, Jaden and GRACIAS to our cousins Susu, Arturo, Sebastian and Sebastian Jr. who came to do all the heavy lifting and whatever it took to make things perfect.
Last, but not least, I want to thank Armando Lopez. Mando and I have been friends since we were two years old and in preschool. We went to every school together- preschool, Middleton Elementary School, Gage Middle School and Huntington Park High School where he was a star football player. He embodies what is so wonderful about our community. He raised his sons as a single Dad, always in service to others including the hundreds of kids he’s taught how to play football as their coach. As I watched him in his Santa suit making all of these kids happy,
I realized that we’re the adults now and it’s up to us to do whatever we can for our kids. Last night was a beautiful example of what can happen when adults rally to help protect and provide for the children. It will continue to guide our work as we fight for education excellence! Thank you everyone for making this magical night happen for all of us!!
Alma V. Marquez
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