EL CENTRO — The moment Hayley Riddick sat on the lap of Santa Claus, she immediately cried and reached out for her mother. Nevertheless, the twenty-month-old girl walked away from the white tent clutching the gift she had received from Santa.
Other children followed, each one receiving candies and gifts from the jolly man in the red and white suit.
The line was short and there were not many children in attendance from surrounding areas including Posada Del Sol apartments where Sister Evelyn Mourey Center is located. The center’s office is just right across from Carlos Aguilar Memorial Park where the “Holiday & Christmas Fest” took place Saturday morning.
“This is our first holiday event here in the valley for our center,” said Karen White, Executive Director of Sister Evelyn Mourey Center. “We are just trying to have a little Christmas fun with the community. Bringing some resources to them.”
Community organizations set up tables offering information of their services. The scent of freshly cooked kettle corn diffused across the park from a vendor who was also selling flavored shaved ice. Bales of hay provided seating. Included in the fundraising event was a 5k run and walk, with more than 30 participating, designed to encourage fitness during the holidays, White said.
With the low participation by mid-morning, community organizations started to stow away and pack their belongings about two hours before its announced closing time.
Executive Director White is nonetheless optimistic for favorable results in years to come. “We just hope that next year we can actually have a real tamale cook-off because that’s what we wanted to do this year. I think with such short notice and other events going on, it didn’t really happen.”
Jane Fugate bought tickets and won in the raffle drawing for a Christmas tree. Isaura Ruiz, a volunteer with Relay For Life, helped Fugate carry and load the tree in her car.
“Proceeds from the raffle will help needy families in the valley. Some of the the trees that are leftover will be given to families who wouldn’t otherwise have one this year,” said John Heraz, board president of the Sister Evelyn Mourey Center.
“To everybody who participated we thank them from the bottom of our hearts. The proceeds from this fundraiser are going to help continue our programs we have for the needy in the community. We are hoping our event next year is a lot bigger with more of a turn out,” Heraz said.
According to its website, http://www.moureycenter.org, the Sister Evelyn Mourey Center, originally named Centro de Siempre Aprendiendo, was established in 1989 by Sister Evelyn Mourey of Our Lady of Victory Missionary Sisters to serve residents of Posda del Sol apartments. This was a community of struggling working families where Sister Evelyn saw the opportunity to provide food, clothing and resources to improve their livelihood.
Following the demise of Sister Evelyn in May of 2001, Sister Maria Luisa Valdez continued the mission until her retirement in May 2013, but she continues to serve as Director Emeritus. Sister Mourey’s legacy and leadership was passed on to Karen White who took the reigns in September 2013. Since then the Sister Evelyn Mourey Center has expanded its service throughout the Imperial Valley.