Inside a cramped studio apartment in south Glendale Thursday night, Guadalupe Villela-Garcia’s three sons gazed over a mountain of gifts that they hadn’t expect to see this holiday season.
Money has been tight this year in the Villela-Garcia household.
And the single mother, who cleans homes for a living, expects her finances will become more problematic next year because she must move out of her $850-per-month apartment in Glendale by next month because her building was sold and it will no longer have apartments.
This Christmas looked so gloomy, so she said she “didn’t feel like decorating.”
But her spirits quickly rose after she got a special Christmas tree delivery from the Glendale Police Officers’ Assn.
Then, with only about a week until Christmas, Officer Ben Bateman, his family, newly appointed Police Chief Robert Castro and his wife Cynthia, and local businessman T.J. Denton were at her doorstep with a sizable donation of toys and other gifts.
“I was begging the [Virgin Mary] for help,” Villela-Garcia said.
Villela-Garcia’s family was one of 21 low-income local households which police officers visited on that rainy night to deliver dozens of Christmas gifts.
The association received more than 40 nominations for local families this year through its Cops 4 Kids program, Officer Patricia Larrigan said.
The toy delivery is the association’s biggest event.
Officer Bryan Duncan, an association board member, has been delivering toys to families for the past four years and plans to continue to do it for the remainder of his law-enforcement career.
“This is something very near and dear to my heart,” he told a group of fellow officers and volunteers before they delivered gifts.
The officers’ generosity was welcomed by single mother Alicia Herrera, who wasn’t planning to buy her three daughters gifts this year because she’s having trouble finding a steady job cleaning houses.
She said her children were overjoyed about receiving the gifts because they hadn’t received any for years.
The association is still accepting toy donations, which officers will give to additional families on Tuesday.
Anyone interested in donating a toy can drop it off at the Police Department headquarters, 131 N. Isabel St.