“This is not about us, this is about the community,” Seeds of Hope Executive Director Gloria Gaona said to the 40-plus volunteers who were preparing for the 10th annual toy giveaway at the rear of Leno’s Rico Taco on Saturday, Dec. 15.
The event, started by Gloria and her late husband, Richard, continues to be a family affair, with sons Steven and Richard Jr. on board. “I have to put me aside and do what I know God wants us to do to keep his vision going,” Gaona continued.
300 children, many of whom were referred to by the Colton and San Bernardino school districts, received gifts that day – as well as the opportunity to participate in various arts and crafts projects, cookie decorating and face painting.
Mayor-elect Frank Navarro was in attendance, as well as former City Clerk Eileen Gomez. This is the 6th year that the giveaway has been held at Leno’s; owner Leno Moreno had what used to be a dirt lot newly cemented in time for the event.
“I wouldn’t have it any place else,” Gaona said.
Anthony Martinez has been playing Santa since the event’s inception, with his wife Valerie as his Mrs. Claus. “I do this for the family and the community,” Martinez explained. “I enjoy seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces, their laughter, and it makes me happy.” Martinez was joined by his three grandchildren this year, dressed as elves.
Toys are collected year-round from individual donors, toy drives, Children’s Fund, Santa Claus Inc., and Home Depot, to name a few.
“My joy comes at the end, when I see all the joy in the kids,” Gaona concluded.