Anaheim Police Detective Leslie Vargas attended a recent Adopt-A-Family Christmas Party with the mission of handing presents to underprivileged families in need of holiday cheer.
As a member of the Anaheim Police Family Protection Detail, she has a lot of shocking encounters, but she was touched when one of the mothers she hosted gave her a homemade rosary to thank her for the generosity.
“The mom was very humbled about receiving the gifts,” Vargas said.
The Anaheim Police Department cohosted the ninth annual Adopt-A-Family event on Dec. 13 with the Orange County Family Justice Center Foundation, providing presents for 52 families that otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford to give their children a merry Christmas. Among the 236 people matched with gifts were 99 children and 44 teenagers.
Some of the parents who attended the Adopt-a-Family party were students of the Parents Creating Change class at the Orange County Family Justice Center. The 10-week course teaches parents about conflict resolution, positive parenting, healthy relationships, self-esteem, and stress and time management.
Letty Sanchez, a facilitator for the parenting class, said she selected the families she knows are struggling with financial hardship or domestic violence.
“I’m very, very happy because the families have big smiles on their faces,” Sanchez said. “It’s the first time some families have received presents.”
Nancy Canchola, a mother of three, said she was surprised to hear that her children would be eligible for Adopt-A-Family. This year has been challenging for her family after she had to quit her job after having surgery on her hand. With only her husband working, she said Christmas presents were out of reach.
“This really helps us,” she said. “I feel like all the families feel like us.”
Eight-year-old Jiovanny couldn’t wait until Christmas to open one of his presents, which turned out to be a set of comic book action hero figures. His favorites are Black Panther and Spiderman.
“My son is very happy because he wanted this but they’re very expensive,” Canchola said.
Leticia Morales watched as her 7-year-old son Adrian Rodarte’s jaw dropped when he saw his Christmas wish was granted — a set of Halo action figures. As the single mother of seven kids, she wouldn’t have been able to afford them.
“It made me really happy that he got exactly what we wanted for Christmas,” Morales said.
After buying the children their gifts, the Orange County Family Justice Center Foundation still found the funds to buy Morales the coffee maker she’s wanted.
Besides the wrapped Christmas presents, the children were invited to pick two books or a DVD from a hoard from the Friends of the Orange Library Bookstore. Rebecca Martinez, vice president of the Orange County Family Justice Center Foundation Board, said her book club of fellow retired Orange Unified School District employees pooled $120 to give the children something to read over their winter vacation.
Lt. Willie Triplett II said many of the parents at the party came to the Orange County Family Justice Center because they are victims of family violence. In some cases, the first experience the children have with a police officer is watching them arrest a family member.
“Part of being a police officer is helping others who can’t help themselves,” Triplett said. “It’s important for them to see that the police aren’t just here to arrest people. They’re here to help people and that really helps build the community relationship.”