Cesar Ornelas and Arturo Lara enjoyed a common memory Sunday as they handed out toys to Victoria families.

“Do you remember getting a candy cane and an apple or an orange for Christmas and being happy about that?” they said, both chuckling and recollecting their humble origins, as they scooped up remote-controlled monster trucks, robots, dinosaurs and digital speaker boxes whimsically shaped liked bulldogs, to hand out to families waiting in a drive-through line.

Ornelas owns Angel Lucy’s Funeral Home, 706 E. Crestwood Drive, and from about noon-3 p.m., he and more than 20 volunteers handed out thousands of toys at the funeral home to families in need. Ornelas buys all the toys himself.

His joy at giving was palpable as he shouted “merry Christmas!” to families collecting the gifts. His energy was pure warmhearted excitement. Nearby, his silver 1962 Corvette had a blow-up Santa in the driver’s seat, waving in the breeze.

Ornelas and his family have been giving toys out at Christmastime since he opened the funeral home in 2017.

Lara, a De Leon Club officer, was at the funeral home, along with other club members, to help hand out the wall of toys.

Families had to pre-register to receive the packages — three toys for each child.

Ornelas said he expected about 600-700 children to come collect the toys.

“We enjoy giving back to the community. We’re excited,” Ornelas said. “Growing up, we were very underprivileged kids, my family and I, so I promised if I ever had the opportunity to be put in a position, I would always give back. It’s not a toy drive because we don’t ask people to give toys. We give it all from Angel Lucy’s Funeral Home in the name of my mom Lucia Ornelas, who was an unbelievable person. She taught us to give.”

Just before noon, 9-year-old Gabriel Michael Reyes stood in front of the high wall of toys with a wide smile on his face, asking his great-grandmother Francis Mendez, 84, which toys he should choose.

Before she could even utter a complete answer, he was darting about in front of the wall, stopping here and there to scoop up each of his three toy choices. He changed his mind at least once, placed a toy back on the wall, stretched up on his tiptoes and grabbed a different selection.

Mendez said she works at the funeral home, and several employees and volunteers chose toys for their loved ones.

“We have well over 1,000 toys,” Ornelas said. “We want to make sure we have enough. No one will be turned away, and whatever is left, we will take to the women’s shelter or to CASA homes.”

Ornelas gave 1,500 toys away in Midland earlier this month and 900 in Los Fresnos in the Rio Grande Valley.

The toys, with names like Galaxy Racer Friction Power, Stunt Scooter Robot, Monster Climber, Dream Bride and My Magic Princess Vanity, were sure to thrill the children who receive them.

Tamara covers the public safety beat for the Advocate. She can be reached at 361-580-6597 or tdiaz@vicad.com.

Public Safety Reporter

Tamara covers crime and courts as the public safety reporter for the Victoria Advocate. She is a graduate of the University of Washington and a native of Minnesota.