By Jacqueline Hernandez

Ever played the role of an elf? I have. It’s quite fun indeed. But the other elves and I don’t necessarily dress all in green. We just wear the hats. Santa (Many Toledo) is the founder of the nonprofit organization along with Mrs. Clause (Cecy Todelo).

Since December of 2005 Many Toledo and his family have donated hundreds of toys to children of needy families. The best part of it all is that the toys are wrapped and the surprise and anticipation of knowing what you got for Christmas is always there!

This year it will be the 7th year that toys will be delivered to the children’s receiving home of Sacramento, the Ronald McDonald house charities, Sacramento Sheriff’s department , the National Shrine of our Lady of Guadalupe and the Women’s Center of San Joaquin County to name a few.  

The tradition is in appreciation of their Daughter “Laurie” who was born on December 22nd. Mr. and Mrs. Toledo described her birth as “The best Christmas of their life.” Since 2010 the Toledo family has been organizing a dinner/dance event to collect funds from tickets sold for the event. All proceeds are used for the purchase of hundreds of toys to wrap and give to children.

There are 3 days dedicated to wrapping toys. Last year there were so many toys that they could not fit in one large moving truck! We had to go back to reload the truck, its extra work, but the work is well paid off when we get to see the smiles each wrapped toy brings to a small child…. child that, had it not been thanks to Mr. Santa (Toledo), he or she would not receive a toy at all that Christmas.

The boy’s gifts are wrapped in green. Typically the toys for boys are cars, trucks, basketballs, soccer balls and stuffed animals. Meanwhile, the girls receive a Barbie, a baby to care for or stuffed animals wrapped in red.
I can recall the first time we delivered the toys. In some locations we don’t get the opportunity to meet with the kids, but in those that we do, we all end up with damp faces. In one of the stops that “Santa and his elves” made to El Concilio in Modesto in 2010 we were able to give each child their toys.

The room we entered was full of about 25 to 30 children. Each excited as soon as Santa stepped in the room. They all huddles around Santa and quickly made a line to pick out their gift as they were told. I cannot fully describe the feeling of seeing the children of farmworkers so happily chit chatting about the toys they were going to get.

I remember being greatly happy when I was their age and received a toy. It didn’t matter what it was. What mattered was that I would have something new to play with! Each smile was different, just as each child was. Some had all teeth, some were missing a few. Some smiles had a little silver in them, too much candy I suppose…but each wide open and very content.

That had been the first time I ever volunteered for something. A friend dragged me along to the dinner dance and she gave me my first opportunity to feel like I had done something great for others by inviting me to wrap gifts and then deliver them. The hours we took, the efforts spent and the dizziness at the end of the delivery from going from one place in town to another…and another…and another were some of the most valuable moment of my life.
My mother always told me that I cannot help another if I cannot help myself first. She tends to be right about most things. But this time I found she was not. There are two things one can give to a needy fellow, money and time.

Money, because without economic resources we simply cannot live. As much as you may love and want to help someone…love won’t bring food to the table unless it’s God’s love that somehow miraculously sends lunch or dinner. Needless to say, that won’t happen and hasn’t happened In quite some time.

Time, time is a valuable thing to have. You can either share it, or keep it to yourself. Either way it runs out. I’d rather keep the memories of times when I’ve done something for others, than think of the times I spent with me myself and I. Actually If you think about it, it sounds depressing to not be surrounded by people.

“Don’t say that you want to give, but go ahead and give! You’ll never catch up with a mere hope.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I used to think “it must be great to do all that cool stuff, donating money, blood, time, running a marathon for breast cancer” …”I wish I could do that someday.” My “someday” came around sooner than I thought. I may not have economic funds to share, but I do have time. I guess for some its one or the other. Those that have the financial recourses may not have the time. Either way, if you have not done one or the other you should try it sometime. Its soothing for the soul, it’s a great anti-depressant and it gives you the feeling of being part of something great. Part of someone’s life, even if only for a moment.