Last week ladies at River Ranch Resort were bustling about the recreation hall wrapping gifts that residents had donated for children of Rio Hondo. The park has been working with Chief Bilokury, Rio Hondo Public Safety Director, for about four years. This year is the first time the park has also worked with the city and a local church. Together, they hope to help 500 children of the community.
Tables were filled with gifts that Carol Babbitt had sorted that morning. She sorted the gifts by age and whether they were for a boy or girl. New gifts that were challenging to wrap this year included skateboards to which someone had donated several of them. They didn’t leave anything out while wrapping gifts either. Someone would call out when they needed batteries to include with their gift they were wrapping.
Ladies that were wrapping gifts when I visited included Carol, Maggie Rogers, Mary Jane Reinbold, Wendy Cox, Kim Mitchell, Cathie Sherrow, Ruth Mill, Linda Bergan, Ann Bergan, Pat Stroot, Marilyn Cox, Denise Ross, and Julie Trotter.
The goal of the park was to get at least 150 gifts. From the look of the tables, they probably had that and more. They were planning on several deliveries when completed. They know of at least three low-income housing apartments they help with and one very low-income area they help with as well.
The park church helps out one low-income apartment complex throughout the year. They help them with things such as laundry detergent, blankets, shampoo, and other necessities.
It was a pleasure walking around the room seeing the delight in the ladies’ eyes as they wrapped the gifts, then labeled them. Someone would laugh when a toy would start playing, or a toy would start talking.
“We get to play too,” one lady said as a toy started playing music while she was preparing to wrap it.
When talking to the ladies, a lot of them agreed that this brings them joy. This is something that replaces not being home with family during Christmas.
“When you’re away from home,” said Maggie, “this takes care of it.”
Giving to these little kids helps take away what they miss about not being home with their own kids and grandkids.
“At least we get to buy and give someone something,” said one of the ladies.
“Just doing something for Christmas for somebody else…,” said another.
“It’s fun,” said Ann Bergan.
“It’s for a real good cause,” said Pat.
Carol said it’s marvelous they get to help this way. It has always been something she has enjoyed, and the chief has always been a great help.
Another comment shared by several was that the whole thing is an eye opener when they get to deliver the gifts to these kids. They see the needs these families have. Then to see their eyes light up when they receive a gift, it’s pure joy and happiness. Especially for something they did not think they would receive during the holiday.
One lady said, “Our kids were probably so spoiled compared to these kids,” so it’s nice to help them out.
And the park isn’t just about helping the children and families in their community. Some of the ladies mentioned how the community works together, even within their own park. “When someone needs something, someone is there,” said one lady.
Throughout the year when they aren’t helping the community, they are helping each other. A couple of the ladies talked about how close knit the park is and how much they have enjoyed being a part of it, and in turn, the work the park does for others.
Park residents, the city, and others will be delivering gifts to children in the community during several events this week and next. It’s sure going to be a sight to see those smiling faces.