Families received some early Christmas cheer with help from Family Promise of Santa Clarita during its holiday shopping event at Valencia United Methodist Church on Saturday.
Around 250 families made their way through the church, stretching out in a line that led to the parking lot. Once inside, families received bags to place inside and carry various items available for them. With at least $70,000 worth of donations, the event was meant for low-income families in Santa Clarita who need help but also want to enjoy the holiday season, said lead organizer Olga Zapata.
Upon entering, guests also received a raffle ticket with the chance to win any particular item or a gift card. Items available included clothing, bedding, cleaning supplies, toys and school supplies. Children were limited to three gifts, but families had unlimited access to other items. Each item, along with breakfast, was donated from individuals, businesses, youth and faith groups from all across Santa Clarita who wanted to help.
“Children do not wake up one day and decide, ‘Oh, it’s fun to live and camp in my car,’” said Dr. Roché Vermaak, executive director of Family Promise. “They are sometimes the byproduct of a tough economy, of parents losing their housing. We want to make a difference in the lives of children.”
Lisa Reyes walked around the back of the church looking through items with her young son, who wore an Iron Man mask at the event. Though she struggles with her new home and it takes her two hours to get to work, she was enthusiastic about attending the holiday shopping event.
“If it (wasn’t) for them, I wouldn’t be this far,” she said.
The event also brought families from Bridge to Home, Single Mothers Outreach, Domestic Violence Center for Santa Clarita and from across all five local school districts. With as much help that was provided for Family Promise’s biggest event of the year, the organization is still in need of help from places of worship, said Laurie Ender, president of the board of directors at Family Promise.
“That’s really the magic of how Family Promise works is we don’t have a shelter, we partner with churches and synagogues to provide overnight classrooms or fellowship halls for our families to sleep on, cots or air mattresses,” she said. “We are working with some amazing faith communities right now, but we need more.”