“We’ve done it before in the rain,” said Erika Urrabazo as she ducked her head to run back into the house for another armload of presents.
Despite off and on pouring rain on Saturday, Urrabazo joined Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus and a group of elves to deliver on an annual promise. The Bay Area Pay It Forward group made stops at 12 homes this year, delivering not just gifts, but trees, ornaments, and even Christmas dinner to local families.
“I know people always do the gifts,” said Bay Area Pay It Forward President Evangelina Trujeque. “I figured let’s just give them the whole Christmas experience, the tree, the ornaments, the gifts.”
Trujeque says the idea for the non-profit happened about seven years ago.
“[My husband and I] had bought too many gifts for the kids,” said Trujeque. “We were driving them back to the store when my husband said, ‘let’s just donate them.’”
Instead of finding an organization, the couple drove to a nearby low-income housing complex. Before they even opened the trunk, they were surrounded by kids.
Trujeque says the moment was especially moving for her husband, who grew up without a lot of money and remembered receiving a holiday gift in much the same manner. From that, Bay Area Pay It Forward was born.
The next year, Trujeque got her cousin Erika and a few friends involved. The Santa for a Day event has grown every year since.
Bay Area Pay It Forward is now a non-profit that Trujeque runs in her spare time. It’s a program that works year round to try and make life a little better for Santa Clara kids living below the poverty level.
In addition to Santa for a Day, the Bay Area Pay It Forward group also provides Easter baskets for kids in the spring, finds costumes for kids during Halloween, and helps supply backpacks at the start of the school year.
It was the backpack program that first brought Trujeque together with the now Vice President of Bay Area Pay It Forward, Dave Padilla of Mission City Barber. During a backpack drive, Trujeque decided it would also be nice for the kids to have new haircuts for the start of the school year. That’s when Padilla stepped in to help.
“It’s hard,” said Padilla who arrived at Trujeque’s house Saturday morning after picking up the Christmas trees. “You want to help every family.”
Bay Area Pay It Forward finds families in need through a number of avenues, including CalWORKS, local churches, and through nominations by local social workers.
Trujeque’s spirit is infectious. This year, the law firm she works for, Caputo & Van Der Walde, LLP, got involved. It sponsored six families and donated food for all 12 families.
A majority of the firm also showed up on Saturday to help deliver the gifts. One of them even dressed up as Santa Claus with his wife playing Mrs. Claus.
“My hope is that when they grow up they’re in a position where they can pay it forward just like my husband did,” said Trujeque.
To find out about the latest fundraiser, visit the non-profit’s Facebook page at Bay Area Pay It Forward.