Santa Claus spreads Christmas cheer in Livingston

12/21/2012 5:54 PM

12/21/2012 6:03 PM

LIVINGSTON -- Kids waited in anticipation as Santa Claus and his wife, Baryth, handed out gifts in the City Council Chambers on Thursday.

The event was the product of the Livingston Police Department's annual toy drive to give gifts to children from economically disadvantaged families. Families pre-registered their 5-to-13-year-old kids for the event.

More than 600 youngsters got two gifts, which were age and gender specific.

Mayor Pro Tem Gurpal Samra, who was at the event Thursday afternoon, said for many kids, these are the only gifts they'll get this year.

"Livingston is a hard-working community and, unfortunately, a lot of parents don't have the means to provide things like this," he said.

The event is one that builds self-esteem for the kids and lets them know people in the community care about them, he added.

"It makes them feel good about themselves," he said, noting that it also allows kids to relate with police officers in a positive fashion.

Chief Ruben Chavez of the Livingston Police Department agreed with that notion.

"It allows us to interact with the community and continue to build those relationships," he said.

Two of the biggest donors include Dallas Distributing Co. and Foster Farms, but many other organizations and individuals also contributed to the cause. The Livingston Police Department explorers and members of the Livingston High School Key Club wrapped the gifts, Chavez said.

Before handing out gifts in the City Council Chambers, Santa visited the Livingston Senior Center to pass out gifts and candy before strolling through downtown Livingston to pass out candy and cards.

Samra said the efforts made Thursday go a long way toward building a more united city.

"A lot of it is to show kids at an early age that it's not just about yourself, it's about helping each other," he said. "It's a sharing community, a caring community and it's good to care for each other -- it helps to build a stronger community."

Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or mnorth@mercedsunstar.com.

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