FAIRFIELD — Needy families by the hundreds came to the Fairfield Community Center on Monday for toys, turkeys, some holiday joy – in short, a Christmas experience.
“This is one heckuva festive place, isn’t it?” Mission Solano founder and Chief Executive Director Ron Marlette asked from the auditorium stage before the pre-meal prayer.
The Mission Solano-sponsored event began at 8 a.m. and continued into the afternoon. The first order of the day was a toy giveaway to 730 people who signed up, among them Lucreshia Bailey of Suisun City.
Bailey, accompanied by a volunteer, picked out a Claire’s boutique set with a shirt, shoes and a silver heart necklace for her 16-year-old daughter. She picked out a package with a basketball hoop and sweatshirt for her 16-year-old son, a twin to the girl.
Last of all, she picked up a pony play set, a dress-up doll and purple sandals for her 5-year-old daughter.
“It means a lot,” Bailey said as she left the event. “It means help.”
Bailey works as an in-home caregiver. She talked about the uncertainty in recent years as California tried to cut the hourly pay for the caregivers to help balance its budget. Plus, she faces child care issues.
The toy giveaway is a help when you have other things to worry about, Bailey said.
Inside the auditorium, the smell of turkey filled the air. Near the stage, so did the faint smell of rubber from new tires on dozens of children’s bicycles. Families could win the bicycles through a lottery.
Linda Wells lives at Mission Solano’s Bridge to Life shelter and is kitchen manager there. She made a gift for Marlette – a briefcase she covered with photos depicting Mission Solano’s history and sealed with a finish.
Wells hadn’t practiced this type of art since she was incarcerated years ago. She took it up again because she wanted to create something special for Marlette.
“It just tells a story, to tell how grateful and appreciative I am,” Wells said before appearing onstage with Marlette.
Marlette gave her a hug after she presented the gift and said he would keep it in his office.
Lisa Rowland Brasher observed the festivities in the auditorium. She is executive vice chairwoman for Jelly Belly and a Mission Solano board member.
“This is something we work toward all year,” Brasher said, adding the event shows people they are loved, cared about and important.
About 250 volunteers help at the annual event, with Mission Solano having to turn away some 200 others who want to volunteer, Mission Solano Chief Operating Officer Rod Malloy said. The nonprofit group tells the overflow volunteers that it also needs help with the Christmas-day breakfast it serves to about 80 shelter residents, he added.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.