Cesar Becerra Jr. happily receives a gift from church members at Rock of Salvation.Photo: Jonathan Olivares/Boyle Heights Beat
The cold weather Friday didn’t stop families from setting up early outside several toy giveaways scheduled for Saturday morning in Boyle Heights. Eager to avoid the lines that usually stretch for blocks, they set up tents and chairs to be among the first who would take gifts home early for the holidays.
The Hollenbeck Youth Center became Santa’s workshop where toys were donated to 10,000 kids at the 30th Annual Miracle on 1st Street Christmas Toy Giveaway Saturday. The long lines that wrapped around several blocks were decorated with a scene of penguins and a polar bear along with sounds from Latino 96.3 Radio. First Street was closed off to traffic from Chicago to Cummings for families to enjoy live music, imported snow, arts and crafts, a small petting zoo and celebrity appearances including actor Tom Arnold and New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez.
Plenty of toys enough to serve a small army of children filled the Rock of Salvation Church on Saturday. People from ages two to 70 came to participate in the fifth annual gift drive. Once the church’s doors opened around 10:15 a.m., the pews were completely filled and dozens waited outside. After a short service, the families were led downstairs to a room full of gifts and were then served hot dogs and tamales.
Although The Variety Boys and Girls Club in Boyle Heights began construction for the remodeling of their facility last year, the center has not missed a toy giveaway since 1949. This year, Santa, along with actor Edward James Olmos, greeted almost 900 members in a brand new facility. Kids went home with treats, school supplies and toys.
Jessica Perez contributed to this story.