As toy donations in the Imperial Valley take a hit because of the bad economy, families do what they can to get through a tough time.
The following accounts are from families who showed up Thursday for the annual toy distribution event at the Salvation Army’s Fourth Street thrift store location in El Centro.
Despite the hardships she faces as a single mom of five children, Odessy Williams, of Westmorland, does what she can with money she earns as a part-time cashier at a Jack in the Box eatery.
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One of those things includes signing up for free toys her kids would enjoy during the giveaway at the Salvation Army location. Williams showed up with her mother, Irene Garcia, in tow to help round up what she could get along with some food the organization prepared.
Williams’ family was overjoyed when they got a Christmas tree complete with lights and ornaments “ready to go,” Garcia said.
“Christmas for us was going to be very small,” said Williams, who explained that she was grateful to find any work at all when she got her job at a fast-food restaurant. “Times are tough. There’s barely any work out there.”
Finding good paying work is also a challenge for Isabel Valenzuela, of El Centro, who showed up for the first time at the Salvation Army to pick up toys for her two sons, Rafael Jr. and Giovanni, who’ll turn 4 on Christmas Eve, she said.
Although her husband earns a wage as a field worker, Valenzuela said she decided to come for the toy drive as a way of getting something in time for her youngest son and have “Santa show up” at her house.
But if someone were to ask what Valenzuela’s true Christmas wish is, it would be to land a job.
“It’s not that I don’t want to work,” she said. “It’s hard to find a job.”
Dulce Luera is no stranger to Salvation Army’s annual toy distribution but the tough times keep coming, she said.
Luera, of El Centro, struggles to make ends meet for her family of five, which prompts her to receive help from the Salvation Army while she tries to find work — any work — to help get by.
Like others who attended the event at the Salvation Army location, finding steady employment is akin to finding the Holy Grail in a county that offers few opportunities during the holiday season.
“The economy has been terrible,” Luera said in Spanish while standing next to a bicycle she got for her 9-year-old son. “There’s almost no work.”
Staff Writer Silvio J. Panta can be reached at 760-337-3442 or at email@example.com