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In the true spirit of Christmas

Jackson Bell

Gilbert Cruz faced the worst possible equation -- three sons plus

zero presents equaled no Christmas for his family.

Cruz, who was laid off from his full-time job at an airline parts


company last year, has been unable to find steady work and can’t

afford to buy Christmas gifts.

But after a friend told him about Burbank Temporary Aid Center’s

holiday food and toy drive, he immediately called to inquire about



On Monday, Cruz and his wife, Christine, stopped by the center and

left with 10 presents, including a board game, a basketball and a

DVD, to give to their children.

“The kids have had this ‘bah humbug’ attitude because they don’t

think they’re getting anything,” Gilbert Cruz said. “So we rushed

over here to surprise them with presents.”

The Burbank Temporary Aid Center and the Salvation Army Burbank


Corps are two local organizations that have collected thousands of

toys for needy children and food for families during the holidays.

North Hollywood resident Maria Garcia has participated in the

Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program for the past three years. On

Monday, she picked up toys for her four children at the Angeleno

Avenue site.

“Without the Salvation Army, we wouldn’t have Christmas,” Garcia



The Angel Tree program allows Media City Center mall shoppers to

pick an ornament containing a needy child’s wish -- typically a toy

-- and buy it for the organization to distribute to the family.

Volunteers at BTAC, which started its holiday food and toy drive

about 15 years ago, annually give gifts to the working poor, recently

unemployed, homeless and those who have such illnesses as cancer,

said Wendy Bocci, the organization’s co-coordinator.

The organization received more than 5,000 toy donations from

corporations and individuals throughout the year to give away, Bocci

said. On Christmas Day, BTAC will donate frozen turkeys, pancake

batter and other food items -- enough to make three meals -- to

nearly 250 families.

Holiday toys and meals for the needy can be picked up from 9 a.m.

to noon and 1:30 to 5 p.m. today at BTAC, 1304 W. Burbank Blvd."We do

our best to meet those Christmas desires depending on what is

donated,” Bocci said.

Salvation Army volunteers collected about 800 toys from various

donors throughout the year. On Monday and Tuesday, the volunteers

handed them out along with frozen turkeys or meat gift certificates

for Christmas Day dinner, said Moy Hernandez, co-captain of the


“The families that come to us are families that wouldn’t be able

to afford Christmas otherwise,” Hernandez said. “If anything, [this

program] brings smiles to kids this Christmas season.”