BRAWLEY – Children and families lined up outside the American Citizens Club in Brawley on Sunday in hopes of seeing Santa and receiving a gift.
Over 300 children received gifts ranging from dolls, trucks, and even iPod stereos. According to Tony Gallegos, the club’s vice president who was kept busy running back and forth, they were a bit worried there wouldn’t be enough presents.
The line extended from the front door of the ACC and winded around the back into the dirt lot before Santa even got there. Once inside the Brawley Union High School Glee club performed and sang Christmas songs for the families.
Lunch was provided after the children got their presents and 30 bicycles were raffled off at the end of the day.
The ACC’s annual Christmas toy drive has been going for over 14 years, giving presents to children who would otherwise not receive any on Christmas day. It is an event set up for the families of Brawley that have low income, particularly on the eastern side of the town.
According to Barabara Olivia, the club’s president, all of the funds and toys were donated by over 38 sponsors, including $1000 from Viejas Casino, and more were pouring in within the early hours of Sunday morning.
This included a large donation from a “Secret Santa” that totaled over $2000 to be used to on presents and to help decorate the ACC building for the drive.
“It’s like every day was like Santa Claus,” said Olga Moreno, the co-chairman of the club “we just kept getting mail.”
With the large amount of the donations from the community the drive has doubled in size since the first one. This year’s drive was the largest to date.
Nicole Raya was there with her three children for the first time and enjoying the free lunch with them. Each of her children received presents from Santa.
“It’s great, especially around here with all the kids,” said Raya, “It really made my burden a little lighter.”
“I remember coming here as a kid, and I feel I have to give back now,” said Moreno.