FAIRFIELD — Mission Solano held its 15th annual Christmas Eve celebration Tuesday and provided toys and turkey for hundreds of needy residents.
The event at the Fairfield Community Center began at 8 a.m. with a toy giveaway for about 750 families that had previously signed up. It concluded with a turkey meal that began at 11 a.m. and lasted into the afternoon.
Jenifer Franceschi of Fairfield came by to get presents for her 4-year-old and 7-year-old. She left with a High School Musical gift box, a dollhouse, a Dora the Explorer toy and other toys.
“For me, it’s all about the kids and just hoping they have a great Christmas this year,” Franceschi said.
Lori Dugan of Fairfield came to get gifts for her 12-year-old, 14-year-old and 17-year-old. She found a Barbie doll, a football, a CD-radio player, a stuffed lion, a stuffed bunny.
“It means the world to me to have something like this,” Dugan said as she left the toy line.
Dugan did more than get toys. She also volunteered at the event when she noticed in the line that a Spanish-speaker was needed.
A single mother, Dugan said this is her first year in need.
Ron Marlette, the founder and executive director of Mission Solano, stood nearby in the community center lobby. He surveyed the bustling scene at 8 a.m. with satisfaction.
“This has been an exciting event, to watch the community really grab hold of and make what it is,” Marlette said.
Service groups such as Rotary and Lions clubs, local police and fire departments and citizens are among those donating toys. A couple hundred volunteers ran the proceedings, so many that Mission Solano limited shifts to an hour.
“We have to turn them away,” Marlette said.
In the end, the event is about helping those who face tough economic choices. Marlette said it’s better for them to get the toys from Mission Solano and use their money to pay the rent and electricity.
“There are families that wouldn’t necessarily be able to provide what we provide for them,” Marlette said.
At 10:50 a.m., Marlette went to the stage of the community center’s assembly room and delivered a prayer of thanks and hope. Then the feast began.
Volunteers did the serving, carrying plates loaded with turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, green beans and bread to the diners. Plates of apple pie sat on a back table as a culinary grand finale.
A singer and two guitarists on stage performed “Jingle Bells,” “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” and other songs. Bikes and scooters lined the stage to be given away to children. Santa Claus walked around the room handing out candy canes and saying, “Merry Christmas.”
Judging from the smiles, it was indeed a Merry Christmas in the community center on Tuesday morning.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.