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Christmas Spirit Brightens the Future of At-Risk Children

More than 300 children who otherwise might not have had gifts enjoyed an exciting holiday season during Angel Tree parties held in Murrieta and Wildomar, according to this news release.

Monica Wood is pictured with her three granddaughters, who were among more than 300 children served during Community Outreach Ministry's 13th annual Angel Tree Party, December 2013. (Courtesy photo)
Monica Wood is pictured with her three granddaughters, who were among more than 300 children served during Community Outreach Ministry's 13th annual Angel Tree Party, December 2013. (Courtesy photo)

The following news release was submitted by Community Outreach Ministry:

Gifts galore poured in for Community Outreach Ministry’s 13th annual Angel Tree Christmas Party this past holiday season. COM is a 501 C-3 non-profit, which meets the humanitarian and spiritual needs of at-risk children and families in Southwest California. In an effort to help as many children as possible, this year COM chose to host two parties instead of just one. And with the support of over 20 gift sponsors, more than 300 children who otherwise might not have had gifts enjoyed an exciting holiday season.

The first of the two 2013 Christmas parties was held at the Elks Lodge # 2591 in Wildomar on December 15, 2013. Many volunteers were present to make sure the children had a fun time. Mrs. Carol Hernandez, a Theatre and Physical Education teacher at Dorothy McElhinney Middle School (DMMS), brought 35 Interactors to the event. They sang, danced, played musical instruments, and did crafts with the children. The DMMS Peer Acceptance Club   hosted a booth decorating ten dozen cookies. The Make-A-Wish Club supplied coaster decorations. And Community Kids provided edible treats including marshmallows, apples, strawberries, gum drops, and pretzels to dip into a chocolate fountain. Free face painting was provided for everyone by Lourdes Flores of Menifee and volunteers.

The children were taught fire prevention and protection by U.S. Forest Service, Bear Creek Station Murrieta firefighters Kevin Ferris, Christopher Matthews, Andrew Minor, Cole Wiessgerber, and Ryan Gonzalez. Officer Rigo Garcia of the California Highway Patrol, Temecula area surprised everyone when he showed up with a vehicle filled with gifts galore.

The children were entertained by vocalist Lindsey Carrier Music of Temecula and singer/songwriter Corey McCoy Music of Murrieta. Together they provided live music and sang Christmas carols with the children. Also, Miss Teen California Latina 2013 Isabel Donadio of Menifee sang Feliz Navidad. An Angel Tree Christmas party favorite, Luk Gus the red-headed Santa ventriloquist shared the enchanting Christmas Story.

Humberto Arauz of Integrity Tax Solutions from Corona and his son Cristian, a 6th grader at El Cerrito Middle School was in charge of distributing gifts. Volunteers aiding in passing out gifts was Roxanne Martinez of Canyon Lake, her husband Brandon Stewart, and their sons Ivan Martinez, Gabriel Martinez, and Brandon Stewart Jr., Reynee Briggs a freshman at Lakeside High School, Dominique Hernandez a 10th grader at Vista Murrieta High School, and Gabriel Ramirez 8th grader at Canyon Lake Middle School.

Gina’s Kitchen of Lake Elsinore catered a hot delicious meal of beef enchiladas, rice, and beans. Drinks were donated by the Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District. Dinner was served by U.S. Customs Border Patrol agents Socorro Donadio, Gloria Marrufo-Evans, explorers, and students from area high schools.

Following on the heels of this successful event, the second Angel Tree Christmas Party was held on Saturday, Dec. 21 at the Murrieta Public Library. Emily Dobbins of Murrieta decorated the library’s entrance with a bouquet of balloons.

The children at this party were taught police safety by Murrieta Police officers Kent Shivington and Travis Shows who gave on sight training using a police vehicle. Murrieta Fire Department Station One, Captain Eric Ballard, Vincent Cicconi, and Jake Wright firefighters provided fire safety training. Fire explorer Josh role modeled a stop, drop and roll in case a person catches on fire. Life saving tips and training was followed up with a pop quiz where the children answered all questions correctly.

Maggie Sanchez a senior at Murrieta Valley High School and Interact Club member helped entertain the children with free face painting, festive coloring, and inspirational lifelong learning stories by Houghton Mifflin and Harcourt. Helping Maggie was Katelyn Musgrove a senior at Murrieta Valley High School, Kathleen Russell 6th grader at Shivela Middle School, and Vince and Jill Lombardi and their family from Murrieta. Again, Luk Gus the Santa ventriloquist came to entertain the boys and girls who participated in this party from the Murrieta/Temecula twin cities area.

Several sports enthusiasts and families volunteered to help hand out gifts, Gilbert Brunton of Legends Futball Club South Soccer Team of Murrieta, Inter Murrieta Soccer Tiffany Fick and her son Cole Fick, Nicole Soriano and her son Gabriel Soriano, Alessandro Bonazinga and Andrew Mink. Mrs. Raquel Brunton of SD Premiere Properties of Murrieta brought her children who also volunteered: Jordan Brunton, Christopher Brunton, and Liliana Brunton. Melody Walsh heard about the party and also came to help pass out gifts.

Overall, the Christmas spirit brightened the lives of these at-risk children. COM’s main goal is to provide intervention to children caught in the cycle of incarceration. COM is helping to break the cycle of incarceration through outreach, camping, and mentoring programs. These year round programs are giving at-risk kids a second chance to be winners and champions. The Ministry intentionally invites fire and law enforcement agencies to the annual Christmas parties to positively impact the children. And also encourage them to learn about prevention, safety, and how to become an explorer. Explorers are potential candidates for careers in fire and law enforcement. Their programs offer youth hands on skills, community volunteering, and development for upstanding citizenship.

Three hundred and eight children were adopted by COM to receive 600 plus gifts. These gifts met a big need in the hearts of the children, who are being raised by single parents, grandparents, or caregivers. Of the 308 children invited to the parties, 146 children were boys and 162 children were girls. One hundred sixty children were between the ages of zero to ten and 148 of the children were junior and senior high school students. One hundred and fifteen children live in Lake Elsinore and Wildomar, while 143 children live in Murrieta and Temecula.  Out of these 308 children, fifty of them are with their parents who are on parolee living in transitional housing outside of the Temecula Valley. At the party children were invited to sign up for  winter camp.

Sharon Peters, who attended one of the parties, called COM to say the gifts were marvelous and the party was wonderful. She was thrilled to see that the sponsors wrote beautiful notes to the children, which accompanied the gifts they received. One boy in particular named Elijah received a note that said, “I hope that these gifts are everything that you needed because I wanted you to have a very Merry Christmas.”

Over 100 families received Christmas gifts bagged by volunteers Johnna Kojis and her daughter Jordyn Kojis of Murrieta, Ankoma Hose of Murrieta, Summer Fears of Lake Elsinore, Brianna Clarke and Crystal Contreas both Juniors at Heritage High School in Perris, and Yasmari Hudler and her daughter Kathleen Russell 6th grader at Shivela Middle School in Murrieta.

COM also thanks photographer and director Armando Talian of Murrieta for his vision to interview Bob and Mona Davies (co-founders of COM). The purpose of the interview was to capture the Davies’ heart on film and their passion for raising the level of awareness of the needs of children and families caught in the cycle of incarceration.

A big thank you goes out to gift sponsors whose generosity contributed in the success of both Christmas parties. Sponsors included: First District Supervisor Kevin Jeffries-Riverside,  Murrieta Beauty Salon and Supply, Jeff M. Prais DDS Murrieta, Michael F. Felong M.D. Temecula, Elezebeth Nieto of Neighborhood Health Care Temecula, Gina Velez of Curves Sun City, Dyana Continental of Curves Banning, Danielle Schweigl of Curves Cherry Valley, Stephane Doucet of Target Murrieta, Chris Brinkley of Massage Envy Murrieta and Menifee, Larry and Lezle Ferguson of Massage Envy Wildomar, John Conchetto and Danielle Hoover of Nike Factory Lake Elsinore, Jerrod Novodoczky of State Farm Temecula, Temecula Valley High School Interact Club, Visiting Angels Murrieta, Omega Statistics Murrieta, Jessica and Trevor Reeves of SD Premiere Properties of Murrieta, Mary Christiansen of Wells Fargo Murrieta, Mark Hana of Wells Fargo Lake Elsinore, Jonay Cordeiro of Wells Fargo Lake Elsinore, Jennifer Hernandez of Healthier U Murrieta, and Al and Maryann Kuk of Elks Lodge # 2591 Wildomar.

We are grateful for every partner, sponsor, and volunteer for giving the children the greatest Christmas ever. And, may you be richly rewarded for helping to brighten these children’s future to be winners and champions. Have a joyful, healthy, and prosperous New Year! We welcome you to contact us at 951.698.7650, info@communityoutreachministry.org or communityoutreachministry.org.

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