City of Norwalk spreads Christmas spirit with Angel Tree toy deliveries

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VINCENT MEDINA

Childcare coordinator Jenifer Friesen’s children Jeffery Rivera (left), Briana Rivera (middle) and Ellie Delgado (right), attempt to contact the family receiving an Angel Tree gift on Dec. 12. Any family that was supposed to receive a gift but did not is urged to contact Norwalk Social Services department.

Vincent Medina, Social Media Editor

City of Norwalk employees braved the freezing early-morning temperatures Saturday, Dec. 12, to deliver toys and clothes to children in need in the community for the annual Angel Tree giveaway.

The Angel Tree project was made almost 40 years ago. Its purpose is to give children in need clothes and toys during the holiday season.

Angel Tree is usually a large event with games and crafts, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the city canceled all in-person events for 2020 and will instead deliver the gifts to the children’s homes.

After receiving recommendations from teachers within the Norwalk-La Mirada school district, 527 needy children were chosen to receive gifts from the city.

“It’s a gift itself to be able to do this,” said Norwalk Mayor Jenifer Perez. “We miss the activities we used to do, but we are still going to make 500 families happy this year!”

The number of children who received Angel Tree gifts was drastically reduced from 1,800 families to 500 families. The mayor said that this reduction is because the pandemic caused outreach to be limited this year.

The Norwalk city council chambers were converted into a massive toy warehouse. Gifts were sorted into delivery routes, and employees struggled to carry out their massive packages to their city vehicles.

“We also bring extra toys for kids who were not on the list,” said Social Services Director Gabriela Regalado. “These are in case the child we are delivering to has a brother or sister. This way, they will not feel left out.”

Despite one or two mix-ups about routes and vehicles, all deliveries were sent out by 9:30 a.m.

Child Care Coordinator Jennifer Friesen and her family helped deliver presents to the families. Friesen was also instrumental in coordinating the Angel Tree event.

“It’s good to give back to the community,” said Briana Rivera, Friesen’s daughter.

Other volunteers included City Commissioners Martin Greenidge and Mary Stodola.

“I’m always proud to be a part of this event,” said Stodola.

“It’s a privilege to do this,” said Greenidge. “If we didn’t do this, some children may not get gifts this year.”

The project was met with gratitude from kids and their parents. Children were ecstatic as they received their gifts, and their parents were almost brought to tears. Any siblings who looked jealous were also given a toy so they would feel included.

Estelle Cortez’s son, Chris, was one of the happy children who received his gift. His siblings were also given stuffed animals.

“This is our first year receiving an Angel Tree gift,” said Cortez. “We were grateful when his teacher told us she put him on the list.”

“This is amazing, they’re so happy,” said Carina Moral, whose son was also given toys and clothes.

However, Angel Tree drivers were instructed not to leave any toys on the doorstep of homes if the family did not answer the door.

Any family that was supposed to receive an Angel Tree package but didn’t receive it is asked to call the Norwalk Social Services department.