Members of URM, an organization that helps men and women leave Skid Row, had the opportunity to choose Christmas gifts for their children and nephews

With a list in hand of the names and ages of his five nephews, Francisco Alvízar was waiting in line on Wednesday to enter to "buy" toys. Acquiring them was something special since he did not have to pay the gifts with money but with a thank you to the people who help him recover.

"I am in the alcohol and drug rehabilitation program and have been here for five months," said Francisco, who is a member of the Skid Row Union Rescue Mission (URM) in downtown Los Angeles.

The man of Mexican origin was part of almost 300 parents chosen to choose toys for their children and nephews. Among them were men and women; as well as families living in URM Hope Garden Center, in the San Fernando Valley – the housing complex that is part of the mission.

Francisco said he was very excited about the help he has received since he had been addicted to drugs for more than 20 years.
Now he not only receives attention for his drug recovery; if not also therapy, it has a roof where to sleep, a job and can even bring a little joy to your family.

Dozens of parents managed to get gifts for their children this Christmas. (Jacqueline García / The Opinion)

He said that a while ago, he came to the Mission to eat and there he was told about the rehabilitation program which caught his attention. Tired of wandering the streets, he says he decided to give himself the opportunity of a new life.

“Right now I am working in the kitchen and I see all the families that arrive in need and it is born from my heart to help the children and give them an extra juice or more food,” Francisco said.
Among the "buyers" was also Mario Cruz, who works as a driver at the URM and has been living there for the past three weeks.

He indicated that he recently moved from Reno, Nevada, and it was through a friend who learned that he could participate in a learning program while receiving resources needed to settle in Los Angeles.

“I have a son and I am also grabbing toys for my nephews,” said Mario, who was grateful to be able to receive free gifts.

For 29 consecutive years the Union Rescue Mission chapel became a “department store” where parents were able to get toys for their children.
The groups were divided: in the morning women with children participated, at noon men and then women who are single mothers.

Mario Cruz was one of several parents who chose gifts for his son and nephews. (Jacqueline García / The Opinion)

Andy Bales, CEO of the Union Rescue Mission, said the idea of ​​allowing parents to choose toys was born after he saw the volunteers give the toys to the children while the parents just watched.

"For them it was a sadness to see that they could not give it to them and there was someone else giving toys to their children," he added. "That's why we changed the plan and now we invite parents to come and" buy "the toys."

Bales said about 25% of the Union Rescue Mission staff are people who once arrived asking for help.

Toys, clothes and shoes were collected through donations from different groups and entities such as Wells Fargo and RBD Communications.

Dozens of parents managed to get gifts for their children this Christmas. (Jacqueline García / The Opinion)

“Parents leave with a huge smile. A mom told me, "They just made me my Christmas," Bales said.

The gifts will eventually fill the little ones with joy that for a moment will forget the family's economic problems.

Fernando said he would take the toys to his nephews who live in Boyle Heights. The little ones will receive toys while the older one will receive shoes.

“I feel good to be able to give you something because my brother has always been a hardworking man. I am the one who went another way, ”he confessed. "But I feel good in my heart to be able to bring them something."


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here