It started as a movement four years ago before Centro Familiar Cristiano even had a building to call home. Church leaders wanted to teach the congregation’s youths to give back.
They adopted a nearby colonia with about 50 homes and presented the church with a plan to hand out toys to needy children. More adults got involved, offering to give out hot dogs, chips and drinks. One woman wanted to hand out candy and another who owns a warehouse that sells used clothes offered to hand out clothing.
“It brings the church together,” said Juan Arevalo, youth pastor. “We are a church that’s united, and it makes us stronger. Everybody’s excited to give.”
Already this year, bikes line the church sanctuary and bags of toys fill the front office. Last Sunday, Pastor Jaime De La Garza asked members of the congregation to each contribute $5 to the cause.
The second year of the toy giveaway, church leaders planned to hand out goodies outside the church; however, the weather didn’t cooperate and it was moved inside, where families filled the pews. Arevalo remembered the church becoming packed at 4 p.m. when the event wasn’t scheduled to start until 5:30 p.m.
The church has even sent out vans to people who call and ask for a ride, Arevalo said. They sang Christmas carols, received toys, and at the end of the event, De La Garza shared the message of Jesus Christ.
One year a man just showed up with a bag of soccer balls and told them to give them out.
This year’s toy giveaway is open to the public and scheduled for 5 p.m. Dec. 13 at the church, 3308 N. Conway. The church plans for every child under the age of 11 to get a toy and the bikes will be raffled off.
As director of the Boys and Girls Club in Palmview, Arevalo will be pulling double-duty that day as he’ll be handing out toys on behalf of the city from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Dec. 13.
Over in Palmview, the event has caught fire as Crime Stoppers, La Joya ISD and the coaches at the Boys and Girls Club have asked to participate. Arevalo said one team is hosting a tournament in which the entry fee is a toy.
“Through Christmas, everybody’s too busy shopping for gifts that we want, and we want to reflect and say, ‘We’ve been truly blessed, and we want to give back,’” Arevalo said. “At the end of the day, we still have kids that are in need. It unites the city, unites us here in the church.”