Woman's Club event brightens up season

The clouds were threatening rain and the temperature had dropped to the mid-50s, but that didn't stop families from lining up outside the Woman's Club of Laguna Beach 45 minutes early.

When the doors finally opened Friday evening, it was a rush inside to stuff blue 33-gallon trash bags full of essential items and Christmas goodies.

The Woman's Club hosted its annual holiday party for low-income families, who shopped for the slew of free donated items while children had the chance to meet Santa Claus and take home a stuffed animal and candy cane.

"I think it's really good for all the families, for presents for the kids and clothing for everyone," said Laguna Beach resident Graciela Mejia about the event.

The club house was filled with round tables laden 2-feet high with clothes sorted by gender and age; long tables piled high with towels and bedding; and housewares waiting to be taken home. Shoes in every size were lined up under tables, and toys and games were placed in the corner near Santa.

"I just like the idea that people need something and we just give it to them without any strings attached," said long-time Laguna resident and event co-founder Marsha Bode.

The Woman's Club invited local families as well as others referred from the Laguna Resource Center.

The event started in 1995 as a "Santa Party" with cookies and punch and eventually giving away a few donated items. Now, the items take up the entire club house, Bode said. It's like a giant rummage sale, she added.

"People in Laguna are really generous," she said. "They just like the idea of giving it to where it's not sold."

Mission Viejo resident Karina Muniz came for the first time with her 1-year-old daughter, Cassidy, and mother, Maria Vahena. Muniz said she hoped to get something for her daughter, but she had no idea what they would have.

"It's really nice to see that there are still nice people to help us out," Muniz said.

Laguna Beach residents Fernando Alonso, 10, and his sister Evelyn, 7, said they come every year and get lots of stuff.

"We have a lot of fun," Fernando said. "We see our friends."

The two were also excited to see Santa and already knew what they were going to ask from him: Fernando wanted Legos and Evelyn wanted a skateboard.

"I already know how to skateboard," Fernando said. "So, I'm going to teach her."


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