Santa Claus received a warm welcome Saturday at the , as a multi-group effort boosted the Christmas spirit of 240 Highland Park families this holiday season.
Council member Ed Reyes' office, the Highland Park Chamber of Commerce and the sponsored a "Day at the North Pole and Holiday Family Festival."
“What we did was we went to all the elementary schools and talked to all of the community reps, the social coordinators, and we came up with 240 families that needed help, extra help,” Paul Bonsell said.
Families that participated in the holiday festivities received toys for their children, grocery vouchers, took photos with Santa and participated in outreach with several local agencies.
In addition to information booths, there was a coloring area where kids were happily coloring away and writing letters to Santa. The seating area near the stage was filled with eager families waiting patiently for their turn to meet St. Nicholas.
“It helps a lot with the kids because it shows them something good instead of looking at something bad. I brought my kids here so they can have a good time,” Jess Ramos said.
Agencies participating in the festival included the L.A. County Department of Mental Health, LAFD, LAPD and L.A. Metro. Each family was required to meet with at least two agencies to be eligible for a toy raffle.
Field Deputy Lynelle Scaduto from Reyes' office said event organizers wanted to make sure the family festival was more than just a toy distribution, which added to the importance of having families exposed to the services and information available to them.
“It wasn’t just a giveaway, it was about building that sense of community and making sure that our constituents really benefit from this event,” Scaduto said.
According to Scaduto, parents of participating families were receptive to attending an orientation prior to engaging in the holiday festivities.
Bonsell said the event received donations from a number of neighborhood businesses including , The York, , and .
“We also got some funds from the neighborhood council, instead of buying them toys, we put money into the essentials like gloves, beanies and fuzzy socks to keep their feet warm,” Bonsell said.
Raffle winners Christina Diaz and Jonathan Sepulveda were full of smiles after having their ticket numbers called. Diaz won a Christmas tree, and Sepulveda won a bicycle for his 3-year-old son, Nathan.
HHPNC Arts and Culture chair Terri Lloyd said, “there’s something about helping other people during these tough economic times that brings back that holiday spirit and a little bit of connectivity to our neighbors.”