Chue Lee stood alone in line Saturday – cold, wet and shivering. The temperature teetered just above 40 degrees, and the rain was coming down hard. But Lee is the father of a family in need, and Cornerstone Church’s annual Christmas toy giveaway would give his family their holiday experience this year.
“We had to come out to the toy drive to make the kids happy,” Lee said while standing in line at Sunnyside High School.
Parents and their children lined up in the cold Saturday to have a Christmas they might not have had.
More than 150 families were chosen by local school teachers and staff after being identified as a family in need. Each family had different numbers of kids, and wrapped presents were prepared for them.
The event didn’t start until 9 a.m., but lines started forming at 8:30 a.m. under canopies that the school set up to help shield people from the rain.
Lee was first in line and held his place for his two children, who arrived later with his wife.
“The kids are very excited,” Lee said. “I don’t know how to say how happy the kids are.”
The church has been doing these kinds of giveaways for decades.
“We’re so excited. You can see we’ve got families lined up for this. Mainly, you’re going to see kids that are going to have a Christmas who perhaps wouldn’t have one,” Cornerstone pastor Jim Franklin said. “We want this to be a Christmas morning for them.”
Families were served a Christmas breakfast of pancakes, ham and potatoes – coffee for the parents and hot cocoa for the kids.
It’s super important this time of year for people to see this kind of positivity.
Pastor Jim Franklin
Franklin said that these events are vital during the holidays.
This time of year, there are countless toy drives – almost one on every corner every day of the week. But it still never seems to be enough to help families in need get Christmas gifts for their children.
“It’s super important this time of year for people to see this kind of positivity,” Franklin said.
The Fresno Police Department, the Hope Coalition, Walmart, several churches and other donors and volunteers came together to make the event possible, Franklin said.
Santa Claus, the Grinch and Disney characters wandered through the cafeteria to take photos with the kids.
The families filled the cafeteria with laughter and conversation.
“We’re one of the blessed families to be here,” said Sara Angulo, a mother who was at the event with three of her kids representing John Burroughs Elementary School as a family in need. The rain was never a factor for her in attending the event. “We love the rain. I’m waiting for Santa; we love Santa.”
The principal of John Burroughs, Cha Vang, said the event connects the families, because everyone comes together for food and to be social.
“I actually had a family that wasn’t going to get a Christmas this year because they lost their job and don’t have the resources,” Vang said. “I have 37 families here. We have so many needy families, but we picked our neediest families to come out. It’s a good way to pull the families together.”
David Lujan and Isabel Dominguez brought their two boys, Christian and Nico, to represent John Burroughs as well.
“It’s a really great event for a really great cause,” Dominguez said. “It’s a nice atmosphere, and the boys got to take lots of pictures.”
All my friends are here, and I’m really excited about the toys.
Sixth-grader Christian Lujan
Both of their boys were beaming with excitement about the event while they enjoyed their breakfast.
“All my friends are here and I’m really excited about the toys,” said Christian, a sixth-grader.
The boys continued to scarf down their food while they talked.
“I’m excited they’re playing my favorite music,” said Nico, a fourth-grader. “The ham is the best food. The pancakes – and more ham.”
Franklin said they held the giveaway at Sunnyside because it’s an area affected by violence.
Lujan said he was grateful – “I think it’s good what they’re doing for the neighborhood.”
After their meal, families lined up to take photos with Santa Claus and then headed into the auditorium to open gifts together and enjoy a live band playing Christmas songs.
Franklin said the fact families would stand outside in the cold and wet illustrates their level of need.
“And we’re glad to be a part of meeting that need,” he said.