Toy drive brings joy to residents

December 25, 2011|By ALEJANDRO DAVILA | Imperial Valley Press Staff Writer
  • Brawley resident Makailah Verdusco, 4, greets Santa Claus during the American Citizen Club toy drive on Saturday.
Alejandro Davila

BRAWLEY — Hundreds of people lined up outside the American Citizen Club here Saturday morning for a toy drive opened for everybody but designed to help the neediest such as resident Cecilia Aguilera and her family.

“There is no work. There is no money,” Aguilera said in Spanish. “Don’t get me started, I’m going to start crying,” she said shyly.

Her family couldn’t afford gifts or a Christmas tree this year, Aguilera said. She attended the toy drive with her daughter Cecilia Aguilera, 11, thanks to her neighbor who read an ad in the newspaper and called her that morning.

“I don’t get the newspaper that much. I can’t read English,” she said.

The economy has been bad, so we decided to help out the community, said Tony Gallegos, Chairman of the club.

With the help of the farming community and business owners, the club bought enough toys for 250 kids, he said. “$3,000 was raised in two weeks. Can you believe that,” Gallegos said.

Hot dogs and drinks were also donated and the Mesquite Mine gave bikes for the club to raffle, Gallegos said.

When asked if he was fearful that some residents who may not be as needy would come because of the open invitation Gallegos responded: “Who cares, it’s Christmas.”

The line for the toys was long, but that didn’t bother resident Diana Cornejo. “It’s fun. I like it,” she said of the event.

This is the second year she’s come to this toy drive, Cornejo said, and “one time we got a bike.” Her son Edgar Medina, 9, was standing close. “I think I’m going to win the bike,” he said, “and without the practice wheels.”

Santa Claus got to the club in a fire engine and as expected the crowd greeted him with cheers and claps. As soon as Santa was ready, the line started moving and children got a ticket for the raffle, picked a gift and posed with Santa while parents took pictures.

There were laughs and claps and overall lots of noise. It was a happy frenzy.   

“Beautiful event — it’s a blessing for mothers who don’t have money for the kids,” said resident Crystal Gentry. Her daughter KayLani Hassan, 3, got a doll and her son Kirkie, 2, got toy cars. “Every extra thing counts,” she said. Now her children have a toy to play while they wait to open their other presents at midnight, Gentry said.

Once the toy distribution was done everybody cheered for Santa for the good job and Mayor George Nava took over and started the raffle.

The first bike went to Cecilia Aguilera’s daughter, who stood up and cheered with the rest of the crowd.

“I feel excited because I finally got something for Christmas,” said the younger Cecilia with a big smile. “I am really happy,” she said, “I had faith that I was going to win it.”

Staff Writer Alejandro Davila can be reached at 760-337-3445 or

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