Civic group brings holiday joy to families in need (w/ video)

Carolina Astrain By Carolina Astrain

Dec. 14, 2013 at 6:14 a.m.

Standing a few inches under Santa's white, fluffy beard, Samuel Castilla, 7, looked out at the crowd, waiting to be presented with a brand new bicycle.

"They're so nice," Samuel said. "I was really surprised."

Samuel was one of 130 children receiving donated gifts Saturday at the Faithful Angels annual Christmas Party at the Catholic War Veterans Hall Post 1269.

The shiny, black bow was wrapped around the handlebars of the bicycle donated by the family of Raymond Barela, a recently deceased member of the Catholic War Veterans Victoria chapter.

Tom Tunchez, 69, held a microphone as he spoke fondly of Barela, "He is gone but not forgotten."

The children at the event were selected by the Faithful Angels Christmas Party committee, who worked with area public school counselors and community members to identify students in need.

This year, the committee also contacted local shelters, including the Mid-Coast Family Services, to better expand their reach, said Linda Galvan, the event's main coordinator.

The Christmas party was formally known as the Industrial Workers' Christmas Party, but the title was changed to include more of the community, said Galvan.

The Industrial Workers is a predominately Hispanic community organization originally composed of area plant workers and their families but has since expanded membership to other fields of business.

"We provide shoes, coats and toys," Galvan, 63, said. "For the older kids, we give toiletries and gift cards."

This year came with additional challenges for Galvan, who have been undergoing chemotherapy treatments.

She was diagnosed with follicular lymphoma cancer in July 2012.

Despite her health issues, Galvan has continued to lead the event, she said.

"I enjoy doing it," Galvan said. "It gives me a goal."

Galvan thanks God for giving her the strength and courage to put the event together, she said.

"I feel that I need to keep doing this for God's kids," Galvan said. "I feel I have a purpose to live."

Galvan was also grateful to Marie Hawes, Port O'Connor's Adopt-An-Angel coordinator, who was able to increase the number of toy donations threefold for the Christmas party the past two years, she said.

"She's a wonderful, giving person," Galvan said. "Thanks to her, we were able to use some of our cash donations on clothing, tennis shoes and jackets for the kids."



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