For the 17th year, the families, students and community of Santa Clarita’s oldest high school organized the Hart High School Community dinner Friday night.
Held on the school’s campus, the event allows the school’s families to come and receive a free dinner, dessert, blanket, gifts and an opportunity to meet Santa Claus.
“It’s open to anybody in the community, and they all come over and it’s been going on for so long,” said Diana De La Maza, Hart’s associated student body director who helped organize the event. “I’ve done this for seven years, and people say hi to me because I see them every year.”
Each year, individuals within the community donate the food for the event, as well as the gift cards and toys that are distributed by the members of the Hart student body.
“For me personally, it’s been a life-changing experience to be able to see kids I got to school with here,” said Vivian Swanvorg, an 11th grade student volunteering at the event. “You would never imagine that they might not get a Christmas dinner or Christmas present.”
De La Maza said that for this year’s event, 700 invitations were sent out to families, inviting them to partake in the festivities.
As people filed into the school cafeteria to eat, others finished their meals and walked across the quad to the small gym where they could stand in line while staving off the cold night air, and wait to speak with Mr. and Mrs. Claus.
Alline Banuto, 11, stood in her pajamas next to her mom, clutching a present she had received from St. Nick. Banuto said she couldn’t decide what was her favorite part: the mashed potatoes or the present.
“They’re both great,” she said.
“We came with my mom, my siblings, my aunt and my cousins, to get some gifts, eat and enjoy our time,” said Alondra Juarez, a 6th grader at Old Orchard Elementary. She added that her favorite part was the good food she got to eat.
“They’re not always going to be able to ask for help, but just offering it to them because that’s what we like to teach our kids is important,” Swanvorg said.