You won't hear sleigh bells. It's not your typical sleigh, but it's Pastor Johnny Perez's way of letting neighbors know Santa is here.
Volunteers met Christmas morning at the Church of the Blessed to load around 3000 gifts donated by church members. "Today is a day of giving. Giving back to people that are less fortunate," says Pastor Johnny Perez. In addition to the toys, volunteers will be passing out gift bags of fruit and peanuts to the elderly so as to not leave anyone out.
One volunteer thought all she was going to do was pass out presents. Pastor Perez told the congregation that there was a special announcement. Little did she know she was about to get a wonderful surprise. "Will you marry me?" Speechless, the volunteer said yes.
The streets were filled with people and cars spreading Christmas cheer. As the honks got louder families came to their front yards to see what was going on. Children received presents such as dolls and bikes.
Without volunteers, Perez says the day wouldn't be possible. "It fulfills you. Giving back is so awesome. It's better than receiving and gives you more than what you expect," says Sandra Sandistevan. Santa and Pancho Claus agree. "To see the little kids faces when they see us giving them a little bit or something like a toy touches your heart," said Santa. "Just seeing the smiles is a blessing to us," said Pancho Claus.
Pat Perez says they thought about not doing the toy drive because of the economy. "My husband said I think this is the year we need to go out and show them that we didn't get affected by it and that we're giving out toys and there's that same spirit of giving," says Perez.
The children were happy to see Santa and get presents but know that today is about more than that. "It's like about getting together with the family and the start of a new year," said one young recipient.
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