Children lifting burden for homeless families this holiday

SAMMinistries challenges children to buy gifts for their less fortunate peers

SAN ANTONIO – The holidays pack an extra burden on homeless parents who are unable to buy presents for their kids. This year, that burden is being lifted by children.

A local organization's charity challenge is showing children the power they have to affect lives in wonderful ways.

Ava Davila, 5, was ecstatic to show off a pile of toys she got at the store. However, they're not for her. She was quick to say they're "for the boys and girls who doesn't have any toys."

That means boys such as Maria Garza's 8-year-old son.

"My father passed away the day after Christmas last year, so it's really hard," Garza said through tears. "We've been homeless a lot, so the holidays always end up like this."

This year is different, though.

Garza has been living at SAMMinistries, where she's learned how resilient she truly is.

"I've gotten my high school diploma, I've gotten my CNA (certified nursing assistant) certificate. I've done a lot," she said, smiling.

She's ready to move into a home of her own, but first, she'll spend one last holiday season at SAMMinistries, which is currently holding its Kid to Kid Christmas Challenge. The event asks children to buy gifts for other kids in need.

"They begin to see what it's like to walk a mile in someone else's shoes, someone who's less fortunate," said Nakisha Baker, chief development officer for SAMMinistries.

Baker said the families living at SAMMinistries can do an array of chores around the property to earn points. They can use those points to purchase gifts for their kids for Christmas without spending any money.

The majority of the gifts available to those parents were donated by children throughout the community.

"There was a dragon book. He loves dragons. He's very thankful," Garza said about her son.

They're both thankful for kids like Ava and parents like her mother, Samantha Najera.

"As a mom, it makes me feel so proud to watch her enjoy giving to others," Najera said, as Ava set out the gifts she picked for other children.

Samantha Najera said the spirit of giving begins a ripple effect that stretches far across our community.

Those interested in participating can bring gifts to the SAMMExpress Donation Station on Oblate Drive.

What the organization really needs now, however, is monetary donations. Baker said some children are even making donations from their piggy banks.

About the Author:

Courtney Friedman is a KSAT anchor and reporter. She has an ongoing series called Loving in Fear, confronting Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She's also covered Hurricane Harvey, the shootings in Sutherland Springs and Santa Fe, and tornadoes throughout Texas. She’s a California native and proud Longhorn who loves calling SA home.