The longtime head of a local nonprofit has a new job that's dear to her heart.
Christine Flores, founder of U.S. Freedom Alliance, was recently named local campaign organization coordinator for the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation. The position is one of two in Merced County.
"I cried, because I was honored," said Flores, 43. "They don't really pick civilians, it's usually retired veterans from the U.S. Marine Corps."
Since Los Banos will now be the county's hub, Flores said, needy children on the Westside will get first crack at the Christmastime gifts handed out annually through the program. She said the Westside was always an afterthought.
"We can get our own toys and we can be able to facilitate more of Santa Nella, Gustine and Dos Palos," Flores said.
She left Wednesday for training in Washington, D.C.
As a coordinator, Flores will be responsible for collecting, sorting and distributing toys to the less fortunate. She will also work with social service agencies to find and register families struggling to make ends meet, said Brian Murray, vice president of the foundation.
"We have two Toys for Tots campaigns in Merced County, so the territory is split up to enable both to cover their respective areas more effectively," Murray said in an email.
The foundation supplied about 13,000 children in Merced County with toys last year, Murray said.
Flores has run the U.S. Freedom Alliance thrift store on I Street, which helps fund the nonprofit's monthly food distribution, since 1998. Alliance also offers emergency shelter, food and clothing services.
Louis Flores, Christine Flores' husband, helps in Alliance's operations. He said merging Alliance with Toys for Tots will allow the nonprofit to increase its services.
"We're going to combine that together, so that by this time next year we'll be more established," Louis said.
The I Street store will serve as the headquarters for the Westside's Toys for Tots and the primary donation location for toys. Flores takes donations any time of year, and can be reached at (831) 905-7966.
Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562.