Posted on Jan 08, 2016
Five years ago we were given 250 toys left over in a warehouse just before Christmas. At The Gentle Barn we host children living in the projects in South Central Los Angeles who have so little. Thinking of them we loaded all the toys into the back of the Gentle Barn pickup truck and drove downtown. With a police escort we went from house to house handing out gifts to all who answered. There was one duplex that we went to and as soon as we pulled up the kids spilled out of the top story and ran down the stairs to receive our gifts. When their mom realized what we were doing she came to the top of the stairs. She was young but the years of a struggled life showed on her face. She had a poorly made prosthetic leg and compromised mobility. She started down the stairs to thank us. We shouted up to her to stay where she was and we would come to her, but she put her hands up to silence us and insisted on walking down the treacherous, rickety staircase on her own. When she finally got down to where we were standing she came over to me and hugged me. She held on to me for several minutes and through her hug I felt her pain, her hard work, her worry for her children, her shame, and her fear. I hugged her back trying through my hug to give her strength, warmth, and hope. When Jay and I went back to the car with our head spinning and our faces wet with tears, we looked at each other and said at the exact same time, "we have to do this every year!"
We partnered with The Los Angeles Police Department's Pals program and vowed that each year we would bring more holiday cheer to more families, giving them more gifts. So the next year we held the event at the South Central police station, the next year after that we closed down the entire street, and the last two years we got so big that we held it at the fire station's parking lot across the street from the police station.
This last Christmas we gave out books, toys, food, and shoes to 1500 children, and shoes and gifts to the parents too. It was the best Christmas ever and we already cannot wait until next year to do it again.
Thank you to all our wonderful volunteers, donors and vendors who helped us make it the best holiday season ever! Thanks for your support so we can be there for more kids and animals!
Written by Ellie Laks
Founder, The Gentle Barn