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December 23, 2009 > Christmas cheer at Tri-City winter charity event

Christmas cheer at Tri-City winter charity event

By Simon Wong

Union City's Purple Lotus School on Ninth Street was the venue on Sunday for the Purple Lotus Temple's annual Tri-City Winter Charity Event.

Again, working in partnership with Centro de Servicios, volunteers and students delivered Christmas cheer to families, large and small. Everyone is welcome at this event. Nobody is turned away. There are no qualifying criteria.

"Originally the focus was Union City but we have expanded. Anyone can come. Help is not limited to a certain group or religion," explained David Chen, a parent-volunteer and board director of the Purple Lotus Temple. "Periodically, we hold collections for food and clothing and share some of the donations with Centro de Servicios."

Christmas music, cookies and refreshments, photo with Santa, students of varying sizes dressed as Santa Claus, including a "Mother Christmas" this year, meeting and greeting visitors in several languages and beaming children's faces made for a very festive environment.

Support from Union City Police Chief Greg Stewart, Jaime and Carmen Jaramillo, Mayor Mark Green and Councilwoman Carol Dutra-Vernaci was greatly appreciated by all involved. The police chief and Carmen Jaramillo spent the afternoon folding and re-folding clothes and helped visitors find items of the right size.

Garments for men, women, babies and toddlers, juniors and teens, boys and girls had been donated. Toys were available. A high-definition television awaited a new home. "Other" items, such as framed pictures, bags, purses, shoes, vases..., were available.

Tinned and dried food was distributed around the edge of the quadrangle.

An unexpected wail of police sirens announced the arrival of Union City's Police Explorers, accompanied by civilian volunteer Reiner Glausch, Lt. Ben Horner, Steve Mendez and Father Christmas, to distribute more toys to the children at the Tri-City Winter Charity Event. They left at about 3.30 p.m. to deliver gifts to approximately 100 addresses in Union City, expecting to complete their rounds by midnight.

"The Police Explorers are boy scouts, aged 14-21, who work with Union City Police Department (UCPD). They undertake this type of community service throughout the year. This is their final event. The Bay Bombs Car Club sponsored us by donating all the toys. Karen Kadaja donated the teddy bears and the rest came from volunteers who wanted to help. Cresco Equipment Rentals kindly provided a trailer which the Explorers decorated,' explained Mendez. "These young men and women are responsible for about 2,400 hours of community service, annually, in Union City. Our post has 35 members."

"This is our third year. When we started, we gave out candy canes because we didn't have any sponsors. The second year, Karen Kadaja donated teddy bears collected through The One Bear Project which she founded in 2003. This year, Gil Robles, Bay Bombs Car Club, contacted us.

"People can donate toys year-round by marking them for the attention of 'Police Explorers' and dropping them off at UCPD. Next year, we'll have a toy drive through the Bay Bombs Car Club and, hopefully, more toys. The need is great," concluded Mendez.

The Holiday atmosphere, laughter and smiles belie the event's purpose. This year saw a 30-40 percent increase in the number of people served. A total of 174 families, or 1,148 people, left with food, clothing and toys which they would not have otherwise. In 2008, there was an increase on the previous year. The economy has hit families hard.

"The Purple Lotus Temple is a good neighbor with whom Centro partners to help the Tri-Cities' community," stated Jaramillo, Executive Director, Centro de Servicios. "We share resources. Some of what remains undistributed after this event will be collected by Centro to help its clients."

For locations at which to drop off donations or to arrange collection of large quantities, call Centro de Servicios (510) 489-4100 [Spanish] or the Purple Lotus Office (510) 489 8868 [English].

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