Izquierdo Law Firm December 2018

IzLegal Illustrated

SANTA’S HELPERS

A Moving Experience

pretty cramped. We wanted to start small, which we did, but we seemed to be growing faster than we could keep up with.” As a greater number of people began volunteering and there were more and more families to help, “It became more of a caravan, going from house to house with a large group of people,” Angie describes. Although they were helping people, providing personalized gifts to brighten the spirits of these families, there was one thing they couldn’t shake. “It still felt like these families were almost embarrassed for us to walk into their homes. That’s when we decided to rent a spot in a park and pay for everything that has to do with a picnic — park rental, music, entertainment, and Santa visits. We thought that if these families came to us instead of us going from house to house, we’d make it a much more enjoyable time for everyone.” One aspect of Santa’s Helpers that might be odd to a lot of people is that it isn’t a nonprofit. “It’s something I get asked all the time,” Angie says. “If it was a nonprofit, the number of donations would be so much bigger and would require a board; it would become a whole other element. Santa’s Helpers’ intent is to help those who aren’t being helped by other organizations.” The difference is that Santa’s Helpers doesn’t revolve around generic gifts. All their efforts are poured into giving the family something that they need or specifically ask for. As Angie explains, “This is a very personal experience for them. We don’t want to focus on giving girls ‘girl toys’ or boys ‘boy toys.’ When I was growing up, I wanted to pick out the gifts I would receive from Santa. These children and their parents deserve the same amount of care and attention with each of their gifts.”

For a while now, Melissa and I have been involved with an organization called Santa’s Helpers. I have never experienced such a driven group of people who aim to brighten the world for families each year. Many people take Christmas and what it means to receive gifts for granted. For families who struggle to get by on a daily basis, opening a gift that holds a brand-new pair of socks or a football can mean everything. Santa’s Helpers strives to give back to people and help those who are less fortunate. Their mission started 16 years ago when a group of St. Brendan alumni began looking for ways to help families in need. “One of the great things about going to Catholic school is that a social responsibility to give back to people is drilled into you,” says Angie D. Medina, director of culture and patient experience at one of the largest hospitals in town and one of the organizers of Santa’s Helpers. “When you go to college, that feeling diminishes, but we fought it, because we still wanted to help people.” Once they had their mission in sight, the alumni turned to the church to see how they could reach out to the families they wanted to help. “We told them that we’d like to help children and families who were less fortunate and asked if there was anything that we could do. The church then gave us the contact information of two families, and we started working right away,” Angie explains. So the group of volunteers, after learning what they could about these families, began visiting their homes. However, they could see a small drawback. “What started happening was that we were outnumbering the people in the family, and it felt like we were invading their homes,” Angie says. “We had more help than those who needed help. We would come with clothes and toys, and things would become

Melissa (and JD), with Angie Medina and Naomi Valle

I have been in this program for a few years now, and the experience has genuinely affected me. Melissa first introduced me to Santa’s Helpers and their goal. I was more than willing to do my fair share to help these people, but experiencing it was on a whole other level. When you see the difference you’re making for the families involved, it’s more than moving. All I had to do was go to their event once, and I completely understood how important and amazing Santa’s Helpers truly is. I’ve watched Santa’s Helpers grow throughout the few years I’ve been with them. It’s still a fairly small organization, but there are always many individuals who are there to help in any way possible. They’re a very tightknit community. Melissa and I have had both jobs within the program; sometimes, we help rebuild people’s lives, and other times, we do our best to

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