Christmas comes early for students and their families

Local school district annually passes out care packages and Christmas gifts to neediest of students and their families with Santa's help

Members of the Lennox School District with one of the families they assisted in their annual Christmas program where they present care packages and gifts. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman

Lennox, CA-The holiday season can be quite depressing for some individuals and families. There are many who struggle just to make ends meet. The added burden of trying to buy gifts for loved ones can be daunting, to say the least. Instead of joy and thanksgiving, stress and anxiety become their best friend around Christmas time.

The good people at the Lennox School District in Lennox, California, know that storyline all too well from the students they serve. Most of the students in the school district zone live below the poverty line. The Lennox School District, for nearly two decades, have tried to do their best to help reduce the strain and pressures of the holiday season. This year was no different.

The district, through the gift giving of its staff, was able to come up with care packages and Christmas gifts for as many as 13 students and their families with the greatest needs. One student that the district showed benevolence towards has a brain tumor and is in a wheelchair. Another student lost a parent.

Members of the Lennox School District with LaToya Dawkins and her family at the district’s annual Christmas program where care packages and gifts are presented to students and families in need. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman

The reaction of students was priceless as they walked into the district office with their families and were welcomed by school administrators, faculty, and Santa himself.

“This event started back in 1990, and it is sponsored by district office employees,” said Michelle Lopez, administrative assistant in the human resources department at the Lennox School District.

“Selected families are given to me from the school sites, and then I present the families to each of the employees here that want to participate, and they go out and they purchase food, specific clothing for each child and a toy for every child. Then we invite the family to come here and they get to meet with Santa and his Elf.”

The selection process begins counselors at each school presenting Lopez with a number of students and families considered to need the most help. From there, Lopez said she makes the determination what families fit into the criteria that have been outlined.

Diego Bermudez gets to hang out with Santa at the Lennox School Disctrict. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman

“The counselors at the school sites, they work hand-in-hand with all of the families at their schools,” Lopez said. “They look at the most neediest. I’m given ten families from every school site that are considered the most neediest in our district. From there, I select the families that go to each office.

There’s a variety of the needs of our kids in the district.”

One of those students that the school district helped was Diego Bermudez. Young Diego and his family are trying to make the transition of moving from another country to a permanent home in the United States. The Bermudez family, led by Diego’s mother, Estela Bermudez, has lived in America for less than a year after leaving El Salvador.

Estela Bermudez has no job. She has no financial income coming in. She is currently in the process of learning how to read and write. The financial burden is real for the Bermudez family as they share renting quarters with another tenant. Bermudez’s story is atypical of the students and families that the school reaches out to.

LaToya Dawkins and her three children, Bobbi, Kingston, and Lola received a warm surprise when they were invited to take part in the event.

“It’s a great surprise. It’s a blessing. We’re grateful and I’m really appreciative,” Dawkins said. “The kids love it.

Dennis J. Freeman
About Dennis J. Freeman 1301 Articles
Dennis is a news and sports photojournalist. Dennis has covered and written on issues such as civil rights, education, politics, and social justice. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Daily Breeze, Daily Press, Los Angeles Wave, Los Angeles Sentinel, and other media outlets. Dennis is currently the editor and publisher of News4usonline. He covers the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball, and NCAA. Dennis is an alum and graduate of Howard University.