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20131218 LJISD Toy-giveaway IMG 5262LA JOYA—Claudia Portales, a mother of five daughters, said her only wish for Christmas was for her children to be happy. She carried her 1-year-old on her side and he held tightly onto a peppermint candy cane.

Only a few minutes before, Portales was hanging her children’s clothes out to dry on a wire fence that bordered her burgundy home—made from plywood and pieced together on cement blocks.

There was no chance of gifts or a real holiday in the Portales home before they received a Christmas surprise Wednesday. La Joya High School National Honor Society students arrived on a school bus and marched up her driveway, gifts in hand, wearing antlers and Santa Claus hats.

Camila, Portales’ 3-year-old, danced around her driveway in excitement while presents began to pile up at the home’s entrance.

Annaluisa Frias, historian for NHS and member of Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica, said 44 families would be assisted in this year’s needy drive. She said students and staff from the entire campus assisted in the collection and donation of gifts.

“It’s been a long process. We started in November with a soccer game where students played against teachers,” Frias said. “All proceeds went to purchasing gifts for these families. Everybody on campus pitches in, and we just organize it.”

Each family that is selected has children attending a campus within the La Joya Independent School District. Gifts included: clothing, bags, shoes, toys, beds, blankets, cookware and toiletries. Frias said it is has been a great experience helping these families that are so kind.

“I remember last year visiting a home that was really small. We didn’t have any space to take in anything, and the lady was crying,” Frias said. “There are a lot of people that really need our help. I wish more people could experience it.”

Portales said activities like the needy drive are very important to families in her community. She added many of the families don’t have enough money for presents during the holidays.

“We do have money for the basics, like shoes and clothes,” Portales said in Spanish. “You know, they may not be new…but they have them. Sometimes things happen and we have payments. It’s just a huge help.”

The mother said she hoped her husband held steady work through the season so her daughters could stay happy and healthy. With only six months in their new home, she admits the journey has been rough, but she kept a smile on her face and was overjoyed to see the support.

School buses full of NHS members traveled across La Joya through the morning to act as Santa Claus for a day. Children’s mattresses with large, glittering bows, stuffed animals and other gifts were stacked in the back rows of each bus.

Meanwhile, a few blocks away, Maria Venegas, mother of eight children, was very grateful to the NHS group and their time. Venegas said six of her children were in school and would be surprised to see the gifts when they got home.

“It’s the holidays. When Dec. 24 comes around, our kids have behaved and they wonder where their gifts are,” Venegas said in Spanish. “But sometimes, there is no money to buy gifts. I just don’t know what to say…I want to thank them for all of this.”

After placing the presents at each home, Frias let each family know that it was through the efforts of La Joya High School students that they received gifts for the season. She added through love and kindness they hoped to help the families of fellow classmates that attend La Joya ISD.

“It is just simple items that you don’t think about, but they need them,” Frias said. “It’s just an eye-opening experience.”

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