SAN ANTONIO – Over 1,000 families celebrated Christmas early Saturday afternoon at the New Life Christian Center’s 22nd annual free toy giveaway.
“Every Christmas for 22 years, the church has brought the community together for free quality toys but also for the true meaning of Christmas,” said LaSalle Vaughn, a volunteer. “The real meaning of Christmas is about Jesus and giving and we try to bring that moment to the families.”
Organizers said they spent around $30,000 to make purchasing 2,000 different gifts possible for the community.
“We got video games, dolls, Marvel toys and things that make my kids and your kids excited,” said Vaughn. “At this time of the year, is very hard and stressful. Not everybody gets to have five or six toys under the tree. Sometimes with some kids, this is the only gift they get and they don’t want to open it here but would rather save it for Tuesday to open at home.”
Vaughn also said the event is much bigger and better than what it was in the beginning.
“Year one there might have been 50 kids,” Vaugh said. “But as San Antonio has grown, so have our needs.”
Some first-time-goers said the event was very special to them.
“It was life changing,” said Richard Moreno who brought his wife and kids. “It is a blessing seeing everyone here and seeing the community and how they are giving away. It is awesome seeing everyone come together. I just hope they will continue the joy and have a happy new year.”
Rachel Sanchez is a grandparent who came for the first time. Her grandson, Jonathan Torres won one of the 50 bikes the church was raffling .
“It means so much to me,” said Sanchez. “We are very excited because for the longest time we never bought bikes. My son was hit by a car while riding his bike as a kid and now has a long scar on his body. We never thought about bikes until then but my grandkids finally kept asking for one and we decided this year we were going to try to get a bike for them and we ended up winning one.”
Sanchez is one of the parents who is struggling to make ends meet this year.
“Every Monday and Saturday, I have been having to go donate plasma so that I can give to my grandkids something this year. My grandkids are my life.”
Sanchez said though times are hard, she hopes events like this would give families hope.
“Appreciate, appreciate everything and anything that is given to you,” said Sanchez. “Don’t give up and have faith. Ask God to give you the strength and to guide you to what you can do for your family.”
The church officials said they plan to donate any leftover gifts to other organizations or people wanting to serve families in need.