What started as a small effort by the Spanish-American Organization (SAO) each holiday season has become a huge part of the lives of those closest to the Barbosa family-- showing up with a dessert or side dish to share with the others, along with a cash donation or contribution of food. Holiday cheer quickly becomes the reason for the season, as Carmen Barbosa's elves quickly get to work on a labor of love.
“We have a lot of people come, because we invite members and friends, and friends of friends,” said Ms. Barbosa. “The people are all very generous. It's always a wonderful time.”
This year's SAO Christmas Party of Giving will be held on Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014, 6 p.m.
Right after everyone exchanges pleasantries, a jolly form of Christmas chaos ensues. Big boxes are then packed with Christmas presents for the kids and food for the families; then loaded into SUV's or pickup trucks. Google maps and nearby addresses are passed out. The elves pair up in teams of two, sometimes three-- depending on how large the load.
The huge displays of holiday charity are then transported to the homes of unsuspecting children and grateful single parents, who, in many cases, also are helping to care for aging loved ones. Christmas comes early in each of those struggling households.
“The best jobs belong to the deliverers, because they get to see the faces of the kids as the presents start to come in,” said Mrs. Barbosa. “Everybody enjoys seeing that-- and some of them have their notes all ready. We get thank-you notes from the kids. It's just nice to see these kids and know they appreciate what we're giving them.”
There are seven families who will receive an early Christmas this year. Those families are identified by Queen of Apostles elementary school. According to Mrs. Barbosa, school officials know better than anyone what each child's household situation looks like.
“We always try to do six (families), but there's always someone who says 'I know of a family who is very much in need,’” she said. “We can't say no, because we know that there's somebody else out there that we do help.”
The children in each family are asked to put together a “wish list.” Carmen Barbosa and a team of SAO volunteers go out shopping before the party and gather donated hams and turkeys from local businesses. Party guests bring nonperishable food items.
“That's what it's all about are the kids. We treat the kids to toys of their wish and clothes,” said Mrs. Barbosa. “We try to abide by their wishes, to get them what they want-- because this may be the only time that they get something they have wanted (in their entire childhood).”
Parents receive more practical household items and clothing, but usually there's enough food donated to get the family through the entire holiday break. Many families in need rely on school lunches to feed their kids any other time.
“It's so warm. The atmosphere is so warm, because everybody is having a good time, enjoying it, just knowing we've all done a great job,” she said.
Donations are needed to help make the annual Christmas miracle come alive for those seven families. Checks can be sent to SAO, P.O. Box 329, Toledo, Ohio 43697.