Church to host toy giveaway for the community

Every year during Christmas season, members of the Templo La Hermosa would dress festive, gather little gifts for children in need and walk the streets near the church to visit the families while ringing bells.

This year, due to the pandemic, they decided to do things differently and create an event that would reach more people while also keeping them safe.

“Due to the COVID-19, I was noticing that there are not too many kids that are happy,” Steven Maldonado, a member of the church who dresses as Santa Claus every year and pays visits to children, said.

“Every year, I do a Santa Claus walk and we pass out Christmas gifts to all the kids, so this year, due to COVID, I wanted to come out, do something different and have my family help me, as always. I want to bring joy back because where I work I’ve seen a lot of sadness so I want to bring happiness back to the kids.”

Maldonado, his family, and members of the church will host a toy giveaway drive-by at 3 p.m. Sunday where children will have the opportunity to meet Santa Claus while maintaining social distancing at the parking lot of Darling-Mouser Funeral Home located at 945 Palm Blvd. Maldonado works at a local hospital and said seeing the children there being unhappy due to the pandemic made him think of ways on which he could help.

“I had the idea one night and I was telling my wife, Becky, and she goes ‘that sounds really good, let’s do a Santa Claus again, why don’t you ask your coworkers?’ and I had never asked my coworkers,” he said while sitting at the church next to his wife.

“So I asked one person, and he said that it was a really good idea and all of a sudden , from one it traveled to another one, and every floor I went to it traveled bigger and bigger. A lot of people started to get involved. They’ve been a blessing, it’s been a rollercoaster ride and I’ve been blessed in so many ways that people I really don’t know and people that have been helping, it has been really beautiful. It is coming from their heart. It is a blessing to see that nowadays due to COVID, it’s hard.”

The event is open for every child as long as supplies last. Those interested in donating can visit the church located at 201 W. Jackson St.

His wife, Becky Maldonado, said visiting the children before the COVID-19 was a really emotional experience. She remembers how excited the children would get when they would see Santa Claus walking outside their homes and would ask for all kinds of toys. Becky and his husband said the experience is a blessing.

“When we are out there on the streets, it gets really emotional, especially when we see the children and they tell their stories and sometimes they even go and say that their mom is not working and they don’t go somewhere because the mom doesn’t have a car,” she said.

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