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FOCUS Orange County’s holiday party delivered Build-a-Bears, good food, crafts, and a reason to celebrate


IMG_5940About a month ago, Nancy, a regular guest at the FOCUS Orange County Sunday night meals at Valencia Hotel, asked FOCUS Orange County Director Jacob Lee if the center would be giving out Christmas gifts to the children because she couldn’t afford to get her kids anything for Christmas.

Lee told her they would have gifts for the kids, but he wasn’t expecting the outpouring of love that volunteers would show to the working poor families living at the Valencia Hotel and the nearby El Dorado Hotel. Guests were treated to a catered taco dinner and gourmet cocoa and baked goods from a local bakery. Lee said that partygoers were also given bags of sweet and goodies to take home.

A highlight of the evening for the kids was the 70 Build-a-Bears that were given away. “The bears were already assembled and each one was unique,” Lee said. The bears were new and were a real treat for the kids as they usually sell for about $60 per bear.

Kids were also invited to make Christmas crafts and decorate stockings to take home. And people like Nancy could pick out unwrapped gifts for their kids and wrap them at a wrapping station at the event. Lee said parents could choose new things for their kids like Legos, Pay-Doh, dolls, baseball mitts, games and much more. So parents left the event with gifts they got to choose for their kids and could give to them on Christmas.

Nancy came up to me at the party with tears in her eyes,” Lee said. “She said she was so thankful for everything because she said she never could have provided such gifts for her kids.”

In addition to great food, crafts and presents, volunteers also had six tables full of new and used clothing and shoes for guests to take. Volunteers also took holiday photos of individuals and families so they would have a way to remember the event.

The party was funded by a woman at St. Paul’s Greek Orthodox Church and a group of her friends. Lee said they provided all the food, gifts, activities and volunteer help as well.

Lee said there were about 150 guests at the party, their largest group yet.

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