Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Volunteer Christina Perez hands Violeta Tixta, 5, a gift as she passes throught the gift line with her mother, Irma Garcia during a holiday lunch, service and toy giveaway on Saturday at the Madera Rescue Mission.
Madera Rescue Mission and volunteers gave out 1,168 toys this past Saturday, serving 700 lunches and leading 423 to make a “decision for Christ,” said assistant executive director Linda Belmontez.
“It went really smooth this year. It was way more organized. We had a lot more people come out because it was sunny for the first time in many years,” Belmontez said.
So many people showed up that Belmontez began to worry they’d run out of toys for one of the various age groups. “But at the end,” she said, “we had seven toys left in one (worrisome) age group. So we did not run out for any age group.”
Toys were distributed in the morning and early afternoon with 1,700 attendees listening to a Christian message before receiving toys and having the option to eat. A Fresno-based group, You’re Not Alone Ministries of Cornerstone Church, assisted with the event.
“They helped out doing the messages. We had two messages going on every 10-15 minutes for four hours. So they did a lot of speaking for us,” said Belmontez.
One of the biggest contributors was Mission Bell Winery, which had conducted its 8th annual Hope for the Holidays drive for toys, toiletries, hygiene products, cleaning supplies and blankets. The drive gathered 310 toys and a record $10,210 in donations from employees, vendors and fundraisers, according to Debra Cerda of Constellation Brands.
The winery’s biggest annual fundraiser for the mission began in 2013 and is called A Night at the North Pole. This year’s event was held early this month.
“We decorate a portion of our winery as the North Pole, provide food to employees and their families, hold a silent auction … and we accept toys and donations as the entrance fee,” Cerda said. “Employees volunteer their talents to transform our facility into the North Pole. We even have a house on the property that is decorated as Santa’s house complete with Santa, Mrs. Claus and elves. Elves work to sort toys by age groups.”
The Madera Rescue Mission Auxiliary also held a Christmas luncheon Friday. Joyful Noise entertained diners.
The next big event for Madera Rescue Mission will be a 5K run in March.