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From many, for those with few

Posted: December 10, 2008 9:20 p.m.
Updated: December 11, 2008 4:59 a.m.

Illeana Davis, Isobelle Espiritu and Julian Dozal (foreground) help wrap toys Wednesday afternoon at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School.

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Classroom Six was abuzz with activity as students, parents and staff diligently wrapped Barbie dolls, board games and soccer balls. Colors sparkled off of foil-backed wrapping paper, bringing the ordinary classroom alive with holiday spirit.

Volunteers at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School in Newhall wrapped more than 200 previously collected gifts Wednesday and will deliver them Dec. 18 to underprivileged students at Juniper Elementary School in Fontana.

Organizer and parent Shannon Brown came up with the idea of involving Our Lady, her sons' school, in the gift giveaway last year after seeing how moved her husband Ron was when he and his Chino-based company, Capital Lumber, participated in a large Inland Empire gift-collection program.

So Shannon spearheaded Our Lady's efforts to collect gifts and made plans to pull her two sons out of school Dec. 18 so they could help this year's Chino program volunteers hand-deliver the presents to Juniper, one of the schools involved in the lumber company's program.

The lesson school officials tried to teach their students was not lost as kids of all ages mulled around the classroom during the gift-wrapping session.

Illeana Dullus, 12, sat on her knees folding silver and red paper around a game box. Considering the needs of other people isn't hard for Dullus to imagine. Her own experiences remind her to consider the less fortunate at home.

"When we go on vacation to my country (the Philippines), I see people on the streets with no money," Dullus said. "I'm always looking for money to give out when we go there."

At home, she said, "Everyone is trying to give as much as they can in these hard times."

Julian Dozal, 13, a member of the Our Lady student council, took a break between wrapping gifts to eat an M&Ms-laden cookie. Dozal said he and his family incorporate giving into their daily lives.

"We donated a couch to charity before, and my mother bakes cookies and then we take them to poor people (in) downtown L.A.," Dozal said.

While gift-wrapping, he was also reminded of the people and situations he's seen downtown.

"It makes me feel very good because I know we are doing something for children," Dozal said. "And it makes me appreciative that I have what they don't have."

As the sun began to set, Shannon Brown and a string of volunteers stuffed gift after gift into the back of her red Expedition.

Aiden Brown, 9, trotted over from the playground after a quick game of basketball.

A fourth-grader, Brown, said his past experience reaching out helped him understand the project Our Lady of Perpetual Help School was completing now.

"(If I were the underprivileged kid) it would make me very happy (to get a gift) and I would treasure it forever," Aiden said. "I feel good to pass on that (happiness)."

Andrew Brown, 7, rocked on his heels, smiling with satisfaction about the part he played in the wrapping event and echoed the message school organizers delivered Wednesday morning.

"It's about giving hope to someone else," he said.

Parent Jeannine Santiago wandered around Classroom Six moving boxes and lending a hand when she could. Santiago's 7-year-old daughter Gabriella made a special decision by donating a brand-new Hannah
Montana doll she never opened.

"(I gave one of mine because) I had two toys just like that," Gabriella Santiago said.

Now, as Gabriella enjoys her dolls, she knows another child might be playing with the doll she gave up.

Shannon Brown said Our Lady of Perpetual Help School will continue to collect new, unused toys for the Juniper Elementary School gift giveaway through Dec. 12. Anyone who wishes to make a donation can call
(661) 259-1141.

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