The neediest in El Centro got the joy of Christmas Eve during a lunch at Adams Park on Monday afternoon.
“We are here showing the mercy and the good of the love of God to bring joy in this time of recession, this time of need,” said the Rev. Michael Rodriguez.
For four years now the Victory Outreach Church, known to offer programs to addicts and former criminals and gang members, has been hosting its now traditional Christmas Eve lunch at the park.
“We got to share the love that God (gives) us,” said Rodriguez, a former inmate and heroin addict who was able to “break the chains of addiction” through God.
The book of Matthew talks about reaching out to the needy, said Joey Mara, leadership staff member of Victory Outreach in Brawley. Mara explained the event’s ultimate goal “is to create a better community by instilling the word of God.”
Some 200 meals as well as toys, blankets, produce and hygiene essentials were distributed to residents, most of them low-income men and women who stood in lines to get what was for some the only opportunity to have a Christmas meal and a present.
Elizabeth Heredia was in that line of people.
“Right now there’s no work here; we need food, I need food,” said Heredia in Spanish as she explained that to her this event gave her an opportunity not only to have a meal, but to feel less lonely.
When asked about her Christmas plans, Heredia became emotional and shed a few tears. “I’m spending it with my friend,” said Heredia as she grabbed Arlin Rincon, who was standing next to her.
“It’s very nice what the church is doing for the people,” said Rincon in Spanish. “This does help us a lot, because it’s tough,” said Rincon, a mother of four girls.
Meanwhile, El Centro resident Ernesto Olivas was having soda with his four children and his wife.
“It’s a day in the park and (kids) get an extra present,” said Olivas, who added that this event also gives hope to people who otherwise have nothing.
And hope is what Bill Seguin needs. Seguin, a former San Diego homeless man who relocated to El Centro to find an affordable a place to live, has been struggling for money and food. The Mayan Hotel tenant, who expressed appreciation for Monday’s free lunch, is however going to spend Christmas by himself because he has no way to get to his family in Arizona.
“I have no money for bus fare,” Seguin, 41, said, “I don’t even have 30 cents to call my son.”
When asked if he was hopeful or happy about anything, Seguin hesitated for a moment.
“I’m alive,” he said, “but I’m not sure that’s a good thing or a bad thing.”
But there were others at the event, who felt otherwise about the holidays, despite hardships.
Such is the case of Jackie Johns, a 57-year-old in a wheelchair, who said she was happy though she couldn’t at first say why.
“I don’t know, it’s just something in the air,” said Johns with a smile.
Johns, who was in line to get a gift, said she didn’t have money this year to buy her grandson a gift.
“Rent and bills took it all,” said Johns, who still said she was hopeful about the future, even after having a bad 2012.
“It was a bad year,” she said, “but it’s getting better. I was homeless for a while, but now I have a home, so it’s getting better.”
Staff Writer Alejandro Davila can be reached at 760-337-3445 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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