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Bringing joy to Rio Hondo

December 25, 2016 GMT

RIO HONDO — Children were bright eyed and bushy tailed as they waited for their gifts from Santa Claus outside their home.

Rio Hondo ISD Chief of Police Nick Garza, all decked out in his Santa attire, drove through the neighborhood to give toys to tots.

It was the district’s third annual toy drive with donations from all the district campuses.

“Teachers donated a toy for a boy or a girl or donated $10,” said Veronica Puente, Rio Hondo district employee.

Puente said the toy drive is very helpful for the community because it brings children gifts who normally would not have received anything for Christmas.

“It’s been very rewarding,” Puente said.

Older kids were given gift cards to buy something they liked instead of giving them toys.

“I’m real happy to do this for our community,” said Sam Garcia, Rio Hondo superintendent. “This is just a small token of our appreciation.”

He said he loves to give back for Christmas because the community is always there for the district.

“Single parents like me sometimes don’t have the money to buy our children gifts,” said Lupita Cruz, a 29-year-old Rio Hondo resident. “This is a great help.”

Cruz said she had bought one Christmas gift for each of her three children.

“It’s hard for us to work, pay bills and get necessities,” Cruz said. “I’m very grateful that my children were able to receive something for Christmas from the school district.”

Her son Thomas Cruz, 9, was so excited he couldn’t make up his mind to open the present or wait for Christmas.

“I was really happy Santa Claus came to my house to give me and my family gifts for Christmas,” Cruz said.

CITY HALL

More than 50 children lined up at city hall recently to receive their gifts from City Administrator Ben Medina.

Rio Hondo resident Eugeina Leines, 28, said she had not bought any Christmas gifts yet for her six children.

“This is very helpful and I’m very happy,” Leines said.

Apex Wind Turbine Clean Energy helped the cause by donating the gifts to the city for the families.

It was the third year the city had organized the toys for tots fundraiser for families in the Migrant head start program and others with economic hardship who were selected.

Ricardo Contreras, 26 was standing in line with his wife and five children.

“It’s good to get these gifts,” Contreras said. “We used to work in the fields as migrants so we know what it feels like not to get a gift for Christmas.”

Contreras said he still migrates to Louisiana to work in the fields.

“Receiving theses gifts is very helpful,” Contreras said. “It’s a blessing.”

rgarcia@valleystar.com