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VALLEY ROUNDUP | North Hollywood

Homeless Kids Given Christmas in Spring

May 08, 2000|EDGAR SANDOVAL

From a distance, it looked like a typical spring Sunday cookout.

But a closer look revealed Santa Claus sitting little ones onto his lap and offering gifts, Hercules showing off his muscles and posing for photos with children, and Woody Woodpecker dancing to Christmas tunes.

It was all part of the Christmas in the Spring event at the Trudy & Norman Louis Valley Shelter in North Hollywood. Universal Studios and Universal CityWalk provided the food, music and transportation. The only thing participants had to bring was their Christmas spirit, said Jeffrey S. Farber, one of the organizers.

"Many of these people did not have a Christmas," said Farber, who heads L.A. Family Housing. "People in need get a lot of attention during the holidays, but then they are forgotten."

L.A. Family Housing operates shelters in North Hollywood and East Los Angeles, serving about 12,000 homeless people every year, Farber said.

The spring Christmas party brought a crowd of about 400 from the North Hollywood and East Los Angeles shelters, he said.

"This is a time when they get to forget about their problems and just have fun," he said.

As they have for nine years, Universal Studios volunteers served the crowd hamburgers, chicken and pastries, and gave children shopping bags full of toys.

"Most of these people never get served. We wanted them to feel special, to receive some attention," said Norman C. Rich, Universal CityWalk general manager.

Gloria Bejareno of North Hollywood said she found it a little strange to bring her daughters Abigail Cruz, 5, and Jasmin, 3, to see Santa Claus in May, "but it's very fun. My girls like it."

The girls sat on Santa's lap and asked for Barbie dolls.

"I don't get toys that much," Abigail said.

Paloma Stincer, 31, smiled as she watched her 11-year-old son Peter take a gift bag from a volunteer and then distribute the toys to his younger brothers, Timothy, 5, and Matthew, 3.

Last year's Christmas wasn't much of a celebration, Stincer said. "We were in Florida this past December and things weren't so good."

The boys said it was worth waiting.

"I got a yo-yo," Peter said. "It's all fun. I like this Christmas."

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