SVdP Vincentian Volunteers hand out toys to children for Christmas at St. Paul’s Catholic Church in San Pablo, California.

Thanks to an amazingly generous toy drive by parishioners of St. Monica’s Church in Moraga, St. Vincent de Paul of Contra Costa County “Vincentian,” volunteers made Christmas a little brighter for hundreds of children. On Saturday, December 18th, volunteers at SVdP’s St. Paul’s Catholic Church in San Pablo handed out hundreds of toys to children in need in the local community.

“This is my favorite part of the entire year,” SVdP Brach Vice President Elizabeth Ruiz said. “It’s so amazing that people donate these toys. I spend the time to wrap each one and we put the child’s name on the toy. We want to make sure they don’t just get something for Christmas, but really get to enjoy the entire Christmas experience.”

The toys, collected over the course of several weekends by the parishioners of St. Monica’s Church in Moraga, were aimed at children of all ages – board games for families, active toys for older children, and softer toys for infants and babies. The parishioners donated hundreds of toys, ensuring that all of the families at St. Paul’s Church have something to make Christmas a little happier and more joyful.

Assistant to the pastor at St. Monica’s Church, Heather Henry said, “It was amazing how much people gave this year. When we first started the drive, things were a little slow, but then people got extremely inspired to give. It’s an honor to be able to help those in need this time of year, that’s what Christmas is all about!”

The children and families who received toys at St. Paul’s toy give away were extremely grateful and overjoyed at the experience. They each received a customized gift, wrapped with compassion.

“We have a really tight-knit community at St. Paul’s,” Elizabeth said. “I’ve lived here my whole life, and I’m always moved by how much the community comes together to support each other and to help those that are in need.” Many residents of San Pablo are from low-income families who struggle to meet their basic needs. Over 20% of San Pablo’s families live below the poverty line, and alarmingly, 43.7% of children 5 years and younger live below the poverty line. Additionally, San Pablo residents carry one of the highest rent burdens in county, with residents spending an average of 60% of their income on rent. It’s easy to see that under these economic circumstances, many of our neighbors in San Pablo are struggling to make ends meet and “extras”, like new toys, are rare.

St. Vincent de Paul of Contra Costa County’s motto is, “A network of friends, inspired by gospel values, growing in holiness and building a more just world through personal relationships with and service to people in need.” The toy drive initiated by St. Monica’s Church in Moraga which ended in smiles on the faces of children in San Pablo showcases the power of community, friendship and compassion. We cannot thank the parishioners at St. Monica’s and the volunteers at St. Paul’s enough for caring about those in need and helping make this Christmas brighter for children in Contra Costa