Rowland Unified School District

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Santa's Helpers Save Christmas in Rowland Unified

Santa's helpers saves Christmas in Rowland Unified

By Richard Irwin, Staff Writer- Highlanders

Posted: 12/15/2011 02:35:52 PM PST

A family poses with Santa at Villacorta Elementary School in La Puente. (Staff Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz)
Four-month-old Christopher Velasquez, of La Puente, has his picture taken with Santa. (Staff Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz)

Santa stopped Saturday to visit some special kids in the Rowland Unified School District.

Big Red gave gifts to 370 students in the Adopt-N-Shop program. The program is simple, adopt a kid from a needy family, then shop for something on their "wish" list.

In this case, Santa's elves were played by staff and students throughout the community. The Christmas angels collected toys, clothes, shoes and gift cards for 128 families.

Rowland's Family Resource Center in La Puente then threw a big Christmas party for the families. This year, it was held in the cafeteria of Villacorta Elementary School.

"Last year, we brightened the holidays for more than 300 children, who otherwise may not have had a Christmas

Margarita Cruz, of La Puente, poses for a picture with Santa with her children Jonathan Aguilar, 7, and Josue, 2. (Staff Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz)
present," explained Cindy Garcia, a community liaison. "This year, community members were even more generous so we could help more than 370 kids."

Garcia noted the program is a joint effort of the Walnut Valley Rotary Club, Rowland High's Interact Club, Santana High's ASB and the Rowland Heights Community Coordinating Council.

The community liaison officer pointed out there were 1,600 homeless students in the district last year, according to federal standards.

"We find families of five living in a garage in back of a home," she continued. "This year, many families became homeless when their homes were foreclosed."

The Family Resource Center assists the homeless families, referring them to government and

private agencies that can help.

During the holidays, the district tries to reach out to the needy families to give them hope and make their holidays a little brighter.

"We gathered the students' wish lists in October," Garcia said. "A lot of kids asked for new clothes and shoes. Some just wanted a warm coat."

Fortunately, the center includes a sheet for the families to list the kids' clothes and shoe sizes.

Of course, younger kids want Barbies, toy cars and puzzles - Christmas toys their families can't afford.

Older students like movie tickets and gift cards to Target, Walmart and Forever 21. Some sponsors added gift cards for local restaurants, so families can enjoy a holiday meal out.

"With the bad economy, we asked for only one present per child, but most sponsors still bought them two or three gifts," Garcia said. "Our words cannot express our gratitude for their generosity."

Garcia's family adopted 3-year-old and 6-month-old sisters. They bought them warm pajamas and other presents.

"It changed my 5-year-old daughter's view of Christmas," Garcia said. "Now she realizes not every child is fortunate enough to get presents from Santa."

More fortunate students have jumped in to help.

"Students at Rowland High collected gift cards and toys for at least 30 kids. They included movie tickets for older teens," Garcia said.

And Santana's ASB also added carloads of gifts for the Adopt-N-Shop program. Last month, the high school had donated turkeys and food for holiday gift baskets.

All the hard work paid off, when the adoptees sat on Santa's lap and got a gift. The happy moment was caught in a photo taken with the Claus.

A snapshot of goodwill from a community willing to help Santa save Christmas.

626-962-8811, ext. 2801

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