The volume of Christmas decorations, food and gifts in the lobby at Glendale Memorial Hospital surged Wednesday as staff members stopped by to contribute to the heap. But the items were not meant for an internal holiday party — rather 25 Cerritos Elementary School families too poor to celebrate the season without assistance.
“Whatever you have, you recognize how much others don’t and it just makes you feel a little bit better about aiding and assisting in the community,” said Michelle Galanti, an exercise physiologist.
Glendale Memorial Hospital has been providing Christmas for local students for more than two decades, said Bonnie Butler-Sibbald, manager of volunteer services. It is one facet of a long-running relationship between the two institutions.
This year, 35 different departments adopted 25 Cerritos Elementary families. The annual event is consistent with the hospital’s larger mission of service and stewardship, Butler-Sibbald said.
“Children are the most vulnerable, the most affected by the holiday when they don’t have something to open,” Bonnie Butler-Sibbald said.
Recipient families are identified by staff members at Cerritos Elementary, where the poverty rate hovers at about 85%, Principal Cynthia McCarty said.
Maria Rodriguez said that she and her husband are only able to find work sporadically, making it impossible for them to buy Christmas presents for their three children. The family will open the gifts they receive from Glendale Memorial Hospital on Christmas Eve, consistent with Salvadoran tradition.
“It makes them so happy,” Rodriguez said.
The donations included decorations, food, clothes and toys, as well as gift cards to Target and other stores. One gift box was decorated to mimic a chimney, while others were wrapped in brightly colored paper.
Some departments asked hospital patients to contribute, in addition to staff members.
“I think it is important, it makes you feel good to be able to help somebody else,” said Vicki Mertes, who works in the human resources department. “The amount of money we would spend on lunch in a week can go to help these families a lot.”