The Christmas season, and every day really, has been a major struggle for the Huerta family of Garden Grove.
With her husband out of work, Dennise Huerta wasn’t able to afford presents for her three children and isn’t even sure how the rent will get paid.
The Garden Grove Police Department made sure the Huertas, and other families enduring similar hardship, would at least have presents under their Christmas trees this year.
Patrol officers spent Christmas Eve and Christmas morning in the role of Santa Claus, delivering bags of gifts all around town to families in need, many living in cramped apartments and motels.
The Huertas, who live in an apartment in a low-income neighborhood on Palma Vista Avenue, were the first stop.
The Palma Vista neighborhood, incidentally, is the focus of a year-long revitalization project by the city and police, involving a crackdown on crime and improvement of living conditions.
“We didn’t expect it,” said Huerta, who broke down in tears after officers put gifts under the tree for her three children. “We didn’t buy anything. I’m happy about Christmas.”
Officers dropped off presents to five families on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day gave out presents wherever they saw a need.
More than 100 families received gifts from the GGPD over the two days, said Cindy Nagamatsu Hanlon, manager of the GGPD Community Liaison Division.
While the GGPD has performed several different outreach events during the holiday season for many years, this is the second year that patrol officers collected gifts together and then distributed them on Christmas Eve and Christmas, Nagamatsu said.
The GGPD has been doing Christmas outreach every year for many years, Nagamatsu said.
Officers and their families donated most of the presents.
Master Off. Gary Coulter’s father-in-law and brother-in-law, Wayne and Dave Waltz, donated a truckload of toys last year and this year, Nagamatsu said.
GGPD support staff also made donations, along with the general public.
PetSmart donated several large bags of puppy and kitten stuffed animals that were passed out by officers on Christmas Eve and Christmas.
Off. Taylor Macy was among the officers making the rounds on Christmas Eve.
“This is why I come to work every day,” Macy said. “It’s not the bad stuff that we constantly deal with. It’s the positive contacts … It reminds you of why you got into the job … to help people.”