SOUTH GLENDALE—Hundreds of poor families stood in the pouring rain for up to three hours Saturday morning for a chance to receive free toys for Christmas.
Glendale resident Rosa Nogueda was one of the first in line outside New Horizons Family Center at 5 a.m. in the hopes of receiving a box of canned goods and toys for her children.
Despite the weather, Nogueda said she was determined to make this holiday special for her children. So like the past few years, Nogueda made a trip to the center on the 700 block of South Glendale Avenue for its annual toy giveaway.
"This event is good thing because we really need it," she said.
Without the center's toy and food donations, Nogueda and her family's holiday would have likely been somber, she said.
Despite a myriad of financial difficulties at New Horizons, the center's founder Maria Prieto managed to pull together her 16th annual toy drive for hundreds of poor children.
Prieto said she recently dropped her husband, Roger Rochart's, last name. He died in November in a traffic collision.
While the past few months have been challenging for Prieto, she said she remained determined to host the annual event, which many residents have come to expect.
"It means a lot to me because every child should have a toy," she said.
After living under the dictatorship of Fidel Castro in Cuba, Prieto said she is all too familiar with growing up poor and not having toys.
"That's why I do it," she said. "It's a lot of work, but you get it done."
Prieto was forced to significantly scale down this year's toy giveaway due to the anticipated rainstorm.
Past events included a petting zoo, a music disc jockey and an inflatable bouncer, she said.
Still, the center received 2,500 toys for this year's event, and more than 60 volunteers helped hand out the gifts to children.
"That's a blessing to people in the community because they really need the help for their kids," Prieto said.
Single mother Carolina Gonzalez, 28, has been struggling to get on her feet since leaving an abusive relationship.
But knowing that she can get help from the center has allowed her to keep celebrating Christmas with her 4-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son.
"Right now, my budget is really low, so if I could wake up early for my kids, I'll do that," she said.