Melissa Ortiz is giving Santa Claus a little help this year.
Dressed as Santa and his helpers, Melissa Ortiz and 20 family members distributed holiday toys and gifts to nearly 160 low-income children on Tuesday, December 18th.
The family visited Dr. Richard Green Early Learning Center of Leake and Watts in Castle Hill and surprised the children, some with special needs, aged two to five, with toys for the holiday.
The Ortiz family started raising money for the gifts in August and did the bulk of the shopping on Black Friday to stretch their budget.
Ortiz said she wants her own children, ages 7, 12, 16, and 20, to learn the importance and joy of giving, and appreciate what they have.
“We’ve been doing it for four years now,” Ortiz said. “It’s basically just our family going to the center and giving to the children. My family came together and wanted to do something different. These children don’t have much.”
Ortiz said this year she and family members delivered 132 gifts.
“We get gifts donated by spreading the word around the neighborhood,” she said, “and whoever is willing to donate, does. Otherwise, the family puts up the money.”
The family collects gifts and wrapping paper all year round, but really sets a goal in August.
“To be honest this is a year round thing,” she said. “If we see some wrapping paper or a bargain on a toy we will pick it up then.”
The Ortiz’s holiday tradition began as a one-time event, but Ortiz said it will continue.
“We will definitely do it again next year,” Ortiz said.
“It’s worth every minute of it. Just seeing their smiles and the kids singing carols to us, its very nice. It’s a beautiful experience,” she said.
There’s also a strong lesson in the annual gift-giving project for family, she added.
“I think it is important we do this for us as a family, to teach our children values and show them to care for others and just to show these kids that we shouldn’t just come together in tragedies and disaster but all the time.
“This is the season of giving and we want to show these kids that people care and there’s hope.”
Kirsten Sanchez can be reach via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 742-3394