WATSONVILLE — It has been four decades since a child protective service worker named Gladys Anderson met a 12-year-old girl with a single, simple Christmas wish: a doll, a toy she had never owned.
That girl got her toy, and her siblings each received Christmas presents.
The meeting — and the giving that followed — was the inception of the Christmas Project, for which volunteers bring gifts and parcels of food to hundreds of people throughout Santa Cruz County.
A total of 320 families at six locations received gifts on Monday, along with the makings for a Christmas meal.
That number includes about 1,900 donated gifts for adult and children, who are living at affordable housing complexes created largely for agricultural workers. This included San Andreas, Villas Del Paraiso, Paulsen, Lakeview and Murphy’s Camp.
The food and gifts could be the only help available for the residents, many of whom suffer financially from the annual winter work slowdown, Anderson said.
“The main thing is the presents,” she said, as she supervised the distribution at Parkhurst Terrace in Aptos. “It’s always overwhelming to see the generosity and kindness of the community.”
The food included produce, pantry staples such as beans and rice and roaster chickens. It came from Safeway’s Feed the Need program, Nob Hill’s Food For Families and Second Harvest Food Bank.
“It’s a great partnership,” SHFB Development and Marketing Officer Suzanne Willis said. “People are getting everything they need to celebrate the holiday. It’s a great community endeavor.”