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VENTURA COUNTY FOCUS

Needy Children Receive an Early Christmas

December 17, 1995|ERIC WAHLGREN

Christmas arrived about a week early in Oxnard when hundreds of people thronged a homeless shelter Saturday to pick up gifts for needy children.

As the Oxnard High School band belted out holiday tunes, children and their families filed into the Ventura County Rescue Mission, where a five-foot-high wall of wrapped presents lined one side of the shelter's dining room.

As eyes locked on the stacks of round, rectangular and odd-shaped packages, 4-year-old Alberto Simental of Oxnard made one simple request.

"I want a car that turns around," Alberto told his mother and the volunteers handing out the gifts.

Although the shoe-box-sized package he received appeared to have the right dimensions, Alberto said he will not find out whether he actually got his hot rod for another week.

"We have to wait for the day of Santa Claus," Alberto said.

As the children shuffled out of the shelter, volunteers also handed each child a stuffed toy reindeer and stocking stuffers. Many parents emerged from the shelter into the sunny afternoon carrying carton boxes brimming with gifts.

"We don't have very much to afford presents," said Sandra Grubich, a 35-year-old Oxnard resident with eight children. "This is very exciting for the children. There is a Santa Claus."

Rescue Mission officials said more than 1,200 children signed up for the toy giveaway. Carol Roberg, the shelter's associate director, said residents receiving welfare or living below the poverty line were eligible to participate. Community members and groups donated more than 3,000 gifts for the third annual Children's Christmas Party.

"When parents can't afford gifts, it often makes them feel they are different from the general population," Roberg said. "This is another way to provide for their children and make them feel part of the mainstream."

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