Generosity and Celebration Prevail Despite Hard Times

By Gloria Alvarez

To the casual observer, this year’s round of holiday parties, toy drives and food give-a-ways may seem no different than in years past. But according to the organizers of these activities, getting donations has been tougher than usual and the number of people needing assistance greater than any time they can remember.

“We asked a lot of people and businesses for help but they told us they just couldn’t do it this year,” said Chris Mojica, a volunteer at Salazar Park in East Los Angeles.

“Even some of the people who gave to us in the past said they had to cut down, so we were really worried about being short this year,” he said referring to the Center’s annual volunteers’ luncheon and toy distribution. “EGP (publishers of this newspaper) really helped us out this year with toys,” he said.

“We can’t keep up with the number of requests for food, toys and money coming in this year,” said Jonathan Sanchez, president of the Eastern Group Foundation and COO of Eastern Group Publications. “We always receive a lot of requests, but this year, charities are finding it harder to stretch their budgets, even if it’s the same as last year, to accommodate the larger number of people in need of help because of the bad economy. A lot of people have lost their jobs, their homes, it’s tough out there,” he says.

Juan Jimenez, better known in the Boyle Heights community as Johnny Jay, says his group sent out more than 1,000 letters and 1,800 e-mails seeking donations for the Annual Los Tres Reyes event taking place Jan. 2, 2010, but with little success. As of now they are 890 toys short, and that number is expected to grow by the final Dec. 29 registration date. He’s hoping for a miracle.

From the Salvation Army to Toys for Tots, to the many more local community based charity programs, the word is that the lines of people waiting for food, clothes and toys have grown, but donations have shrunk.

The good news, however, is that even though many people and businesses are finding it harder to give this year, there are still many willing and able to give. From large donation programs such as the Annual Miracle on First Street event where thousands of children started lining up before dawn to receive a toy and visit with Santa, to the smaller efforts undertaken by individual families and businesses to help out a handful of families, it is evident that generosity is alive in the Southland. And that is reason enough to celebrate.

This past week, across the region, residents from all walks of life took advantage of opportunities to celebrate the spirit of the season.

Whether the celebration was part of food basket or toy distribution, a tree lighting ceremony, a local holiday parade or tied to religious observances of the season, people from all across Los Angeles County turned out in droves to enjoy a myriad of holiday festivities, and to volunteer their valuable time to helping others.

Yes, sadly, some people and children were turned away and there are countless numbers of people still in need. But thousands, at least for a moment, are smiling because someone cared enough to help.

Today is Christmas Eve, and in the spirit of the season, EGP has compiled stories and photos from some of the many local holiday activities and charitable events held this week. As we head into the New Year, we hope these stories will inspire you to find some way, no matter how small, to contribute what you can. No matter how bad off we may be, there is always someone who can still benefit from our helping hand.

Gloria Alvarez is Eastern Group Publications’ Managing Editor. To contribute to the Annual East Los Angeles Dia de Los Reyes program, call ((323) 253-6937.

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December 28, 2009  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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