A family in need will wake up on Christmas morning with a full set of presents under their tree, thanks to Child Abuse Listening Meditation (CALM) and the Santa Maria Valley Rotaract Club.
The Rotaract Club, which is a community service club for young professionals and emerging community leaders, held its last meeting of the year Wednesday at the Abel Maldonado Community Youth Center, where they wrapped gifts for the family they “adopted” for the holidays.
Every holiday season, CALM seeks out families in the community who are in need and asks them to create family wish lists. Then CALM distributes those lists to organizations and community members willing to “adopt” a family and purchase gifts on that family's wish list, according to Sandra Fuhring, North County development associate for CALM.
This year, CALM adopted out 79 families, benefiting an estimated 250 to 300 people in total, including the five-person family the Rotaract Club chose to sponsor.
“I’m thankful to know that I’m fortunate enough to buy and wrap presents for my family every year, knowing that some are not,” said club member Natalie Rucobo.
Fuhring spoke about the need in the community for organizations and community members to come together for those less fortunate during the holidays.
“Most families are worried about their next gas bill and how they will pay it, so worrying about buying their kids a toy is hard,” she said. “So many parents feel guilty that they can’t buy toys for kids during Christmas.”
“It’s great to think these kids will get to have a Christmas morning,” Fuhring added.
Although the donors never will come in contact with the families they sponsor, Rucobo said she knows how grateful they are to receive the gift of Christmas. Fuhring said that many families wind up asking for the most basic items, such as diapers and toilet paper, saying one 10-year-old girl even requested a bottle of Febreze.
“You’re talking about a sense of community coming together even when they don’t know each other; they’re total strangers,” said Rotaract Club President Alex Magana.
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CALM tries to encourage families to ask for “fun” things, rather than basic necessities.
The club divvied up specific members of the family they would buy for, and Rucobo shopped for the mother of the family.
“She asked for an apron, so I got her this cute Martha Stewart cupcake apron and some cute boots,” she said.
“As a mom, I know that moms tend to not focus on themselves but, instead, what everyone else in their family needs and not theirs,” Rucobo said. “It’s important for moms to feel appreciated. It’s heartwarming to give Christmas to someone who might not have gotten it otherwise.”
Another club member, Ruben Escobedo, bought gifts for the 17-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter of the family they sponsored.
The boy will receive some clothes, a card game and DC shoes, while the girl also will get clothes and a card game, as well as Converse shoes to match her ensemble.
“When I was buying the bedazzled jeans (for the girl), I had to explain to the people at Justice (a Town Center store) why I was there,” Escobedo said. “Someone next to me said, ‘Good for you.’”
He added “After I was done, the person took me aside and told me one year she needed gifts for her daughter, and that she got gifts from a program like this. It was very touching.”
Escobedo spoke about how sponsoring a family comes full circle.
“It went from start to finish: Picking out the items, buying them, wrapping and labeling them brings it all together,” he said. “It’s definitely an obligation to do if you can during the holidays.”
The family Rotaract Club sponsored will receive the gifts prior to Christmas, as will the other 78 families in Santa Maria Valley "adopted" through CALM's program.
Krista Chandler covers education in Santa Maria for Lee Central Coast News. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @KristasBeat.