For Genoveva Navarro and her children, Christmas arrived early this month thanks to the Making Spirits Bright Event, which has served families going through hardships for more than two decades.
“I was surprise. It was a big surprise,” said Navarro of her children – Emily Martinez, 7, Ramiro Martinez, 12, Soledad Martinez, 9 and Victoria Martinez, 11 - being selected to take part of the celebration. “We just moved up here.”
Navarro’s family moved from Southern California to the Central Valley during summer time and recently moved into her own place in Fresno.
Each year, the Making Spirits Bright Committee selects a different elementary school in Fresno County and this year 31 families at Deborah Williams Elementary School from Fresno Unified School District were selected as the recipients of the 2018 Making Spirits Bright event held on Dec. 8.
Bonifacio Sanchez, school principal at Deborah Williams Elementary, said the school applied back in October with the hopes that his school would be selected this year.
“We have certain families that from time to time experience hardships,” Sanchez said, adding that “We wanted to provide a Christmas experience for our needy families.”
Sanchez said some 109 students participated with their families.
This year Making Spirits Bright was celebrating its 25th year milestone.
The annual event coordinated by Fresno EOC Sanctuary and Youth Services and various partners to provide holiday cheer for low-income families.
During the celebration, families received a warm festive meal, gifts, stockings, a Christmas tree with decorations and an opportunity to visit and take photos with Santa.
“I feel blessed,” said Navarro, who was glad her children would be able to open presents under a tree this year.
Joe Martinez, Sanctuary and Youth Services Community Relations & Outreach manager said Sanctuary’s Making Spirits Bright event brings together Fresno’s businesses and community groups working together to serve others.
This year’s partners include PG&E, Macy’s Fashion Fair, Macy’s River Park and Macy’s Visalia, USDA Forest Service-Sierra National Forest, London Properties, Cultural Arts Rotary Club of Fresno, and Anthem Blue Cross which also were recognized at the event.
Martinez said it takes approximately three months to prepare for the event and some 100 volunteers to hand select gifts, fill stockings, decorate and transform the school cafeteria into a winter wonderland, greet each families with a smile and handshake, assist families to their table, prepare meals, etc.
“It involves a lot of coordination,” said Martinez.
Elizabeth Perez and her children Blanca, 12, Placido, 10 and Ivan, 7 were also part of the Spirits Bright event.
“I am very happy, I wasn’t expecting this,” said Perez in Spanish, who added that they didn’t have a Christmas tree at home. Her new family tree would be delivered at home since she didn’t have the means to transport the tree.
Perez, who is currently not working, said her family would be celebrating the holiday. “We would not have done anything,” said Perez.