Recently, the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin’s feature series on “unsung heroes” in the local community recognized Maria Vasquez as a “Christmas angel” for her tireless dedication to making the Christmas season a little brighter for kids in the Inland Empire’s Title 1 schools.
Though Vasquez always insists, “It’s not about me, it’s about the children,” there’s no denying that Christmas in the Classroom wouldn’t exist without her and the many volunteers and sponsors she’s inspired to give to her cause each year.
Vasquez founded Christmas in the Classroom in 2004, after learning from her schoolteacher daughter that the majority of the students in her class were not expecting to receive any presents that Christmas. That year, Vasquez brought gifts for 22 kids at Juniper Elementary. She was back the next year with gifts for all the students at Juniper.
Over the past 10 years, Christmas in the Classroom has grown to provide gifts for thousands of children at four Title 1 elementary schools: Juniper, Date, Troff, and San Antonio. This year, Vasquez was especially excited to be able to give all the fourth and fifth graders MP3 players, a goal she had cherished for 3 years but simply not had the funds to accomplish previously. Other toys joyfully received this past Christmas included Barbies, radio-controlled cars, and Hello Kitty wallets.
Making Christmas come together for thousands of kids is a big project, and hardly is one Christmas past when work begins on the next. The first step is fundraising, followed by tireless bartering for the best deals on the toys chosen for each grade level and gender. Then the toys are lovingly wrapped by volunteers and finally given out by Santa and his helpers during special events at the schools.
Vasquez and her helpers are already looking forward to Christmas 2015. Thanks to the generosity of Dalyla Estevez and Bridget Morales, who agreed to sponsor Juniper Elementary, Christmas in the Classroom can now extend its activities to include the roughly 1,000 students of Citrus Elementary.
If you would like to help support Christmas in the Classroom’s mission of making Christmas special for about 4,400 kids in 2015, we welcome all kinds of donations. Lend us your time, help buy supplies like wrapping paper, or make a financial contribution now using our convenient online portal.