Non-profit spreads ‘seeds of hope’ this holiday season

IECN photo Marina Rojas: Yadira Torres, 7, and Home Depot Rialto employee Trina Raya with Jaime Ortega, 8 working on a sleigh.
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Leno’s Rico Tacos at 549 West Valley Boulevard in Colton hosted the 9th Annual Seeds of Hope Toy Giveaway on Saturday, Dec. 16. Having joined the effort to help families for the holiday season about five years ago, Leno Moreno reminisced about how much the event has grown.

“The first time Gloria (Gaona) came to me about holding the toy giveaway here, it was because the place where she had planned to hold it had double-booked and they couldn’t accommodate her that year.  When she explained what she was doing, giving toys to families in the Colton area that needed help at Christmas, I had to say yes,” Moreno shared, “and it’s grown a lot.  The community pitches in, they come to us to help out.  It’s because they know we’re doing the right thing.” 

Asked what he personally receives from the day-long event, Moreno smiles and says, “I get a blessing and a prayer, and with that, honestly, I’m good to go.”

Gloria Gaona, Director and Founder of the faith-based organization Seeds of Hope works with groups and individuals across the Inland Empire all year long to gather toys for families who had previously applied for inclusion to the giveaway.  Gaona is quick to offer many thanks to the continued support of those who volunteer and make this event so special for everyone involved. 

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“I always give a special thank you to the board of Seeds of Hope, the real heart of this organization,” said Gaona, “to my family and Leno’s Tacos.  This truly takes a village, but most importantly, I thank God who gives me the strength.  I just could not do this without all of them.”

Since applications are taken all year long prior to the toy giveaway, Gaona says the number usually caps out anywhere between 400 and 600 children who are able to be served in this annual event.  This year, even with overcast skies threatening rain, there was a crowd of volunteers in place when the first families showed up. 

Families checked in to verify they had an approved application, and children were taken to fun stations (this year included Home Depot’s workshop to build a sleigh, a face painter, and a visit with Santa, Mrs. Claus and an elf).   

While children were kept busy, parents went “shopping.” A Santa’s helper was assigned to each family to help carry gifts and a large stocking full of goodies over to the wrapping station, where special elves from groups such as the Colton VFW, Fire Wives of the Colton Firefighters and the Colton Chamber of Commerce helped wrap every gift. 

Pictures with Santa were taken and printed for each family, and live music entertained the crowd. Anthem CareMore Health provided free water and granola bars, while Renteria’s Construction in Colton distributed a gift to each child to add to their Christmas stash. 

Grand Terrace and Colton High School students helped families load gifts into their cars.

Seeds of Hope is always looking for community members that would like to help prepare for and volunteer during this wonderful outreach program to the children in the Colton areas, and you can contact Gloria Gaona at 909-856-0741. 

IECN photo Marina Rojas: From left: Parent Araceli Torres shopping for her 3 children with helpers Alex De Antonio and Jacob Rodriguez.
IECN photo Marina Rojas: Some children posed for pictures with Santa, Mrs. Claus and their elf.

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