Families and children lined up, bracing against the cold and rain, outside of Valencia United Methodist Church awaiting the married couple that brings the festivities of the holidays – Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus.
On Saturday, the Valencia United Methodist Church held its annual Cocoa with Santa and Mrs. Claus after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“A wonderful way to spend the generosity of the season,” volunteer Patricia Carey-Hill said, describing the event.
Valencia United Methodist Church worked alongside Family Promise of Santa Clarita Valley to give more than 30 families who belong to the low to moderate income level, are homeless or facing homelessness, an opportunity to celebrate the holidays with no financial stressors.
“We help those who just need a hand up, not a handout,” said Rachel Rieckhoff, executive director of programs at Valencia United Methodist Church.
The church was packed with activities for the families to participate in. Rather than just giving toys and necessities to the families, Rieckhoff worked with the church’s board to make the event an entire experience.
Families were able to snack on sweets, grab a cup of hot cocoa, take pictures with Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus, make Christmas crafts, listen to Christmas carols from the Valencia High School choir, decorate cookies, play games, and parents were able to “shop” from donated toys to give as presents.
“It’s all the aspects of ‘how can we make this a special event for the kids and their parents,’” said Rieckhoff.
Rieckhoff estimates that 98% of the 30 families invited to the event are ones with single mothers.
Monique Elias belongs in this percentage.
Elias brought her family to enjoy the entertainment of the event because she is constantly working. At the end of the day, she just wants her kids to enjoy the holiday season like every kid should.
“Just to be happy, it’s for the kids so they don’t get left out,” said Elias.