The City of Coalinga’s annual Christmas Drive usually provides gifts to more than 125 children from local low-income families.
But this year, expecting fewer donations from local companies, the city initially opened registration for only 75 families. Those spots were filled within 24 hours.
Then several Fresno County companies, including Aera-Coalinga, stepped up.
Their support enabled the program to register a total of 160 children this year – more than it’s ever served. Each registered child will receive a new toy, a jacket, socks, shoes and a blanket – essentials Coalinga city manager Marissa Trejo says some children need and are incredibly grateful for.
“Some of these kids may not have much of a Christmas to celebrate if it wasn’t for the gifts they receive through this program,” Trejo said. “It really puts things into perspective how much this is needed.”
Many families asked for very basic items such as diapers, toiletries and other hygiene items. Previous holiday drives provided a toy, jacket and a pair of shoes. Trejo said the city added socks when some children were reluctant to get shoes because they said they didn’t have socks to wear with them.
Aera typically joins other local companies at a holiday celebration with the local families. But due to the pandemic, a drive-up distribution event will be held outdoors so the gifts can be distributed in a COVID-safe way.
“We usually have parents who just want to come up and hug everyone,” said Trejo. “This year will be different due to COVID-19, and we’ll have people load presents into their cars. It won’t be as impactful, but the meaning will still be the same for these families.”
Any remaining funds will be used to purchase additional toys. Those will be distributed by local police and fire departments on Christmas Day at several low-income housing complexes in Coalinga.