Residents of seven low-income housing areas in Hesperia, CA, were surprised to see a fire engine approaching the morning of Dec. 21, because there was no fire.
Instead, residents stepped out their doors to see the Collision Auto Repair Specialist (C.A.R.S.) Body Shop team of volunteers, Santa Claus aboard a Hesperia Fire Department truck, and lots of toys.
“The Fire Department goes around with their siren on, and instead of them being there for something bad, they are there with Santa,” C.A.R.S. Body Shop owner Carlos Sarmiento said.
During the third annual C.A.R.S. Body Shop toy drive distribution, children were able to wait in line for a free Polaroid with Santa and receive three free toys.
Bill Eshleman, 68, has volunteered to dress up as Santa since the body shop first created the toy drive.
“I think God has put this in my heart to be with children, and this is my way of giving back to the people out there,” Eshleman said. “I love being a part of something like this.”
San Bernardino County Sheriff Deputy Antonio Higuera joined for a second year and said it is “awesome to see the joy these folks bring to the kids.”
Hesperia resident Alexandra Perez, 24, said she was “so grateful” her four children, Roselyn, 6; Ashlyn, 6; Angel, 5; and Princess, 4, could each receive presents.
“This year has not been as awesome as the other years, but now it’s awesome,” Perez said.
Hesperia resident Fatima Pacheco, 31, said the toy distribution was “a good surprise,” and that her children, Samantha, 10; Gabriel, 9; and Alex, 7, were happy with their toys.
She said the toy distribution “makes the kids pretty happy, and they are helping make the kids think Santa is real.”
Sarmiento and his daughter, Valerie Ruiz, got the idea for the first toy distribution after brainstorming ways to directly reach children in local low-income neighborhoods.
Last month's toy drive accumulated more than 40 bags of donations, and each toy was separated according to gender and age.
“Our community really steps up every year; the (toy drive) is getting better and better,” Ruiz said.