Lodi’s branch of Community Partnership for Families of San Joaquin hosted a holiday Winter Wonderland party for Lodi’s community on Friday afternoon.

The event had over 100 gifts for children, as well as crafts and snacks for the children and their families.

Community Partnership had a Santa Claus come out and take pictures with the children, which the kids got to turn into ornaments and decorate so that they could take them home.

“We really wanted to bring Santa out for the kids because most of the time, you go to the mall or store in town, and for families on the east side that is not always easy or accessible,” said Alexandra Navarro, a coordinator for the nonprofit.

This is the first year that Community Partnership has hosted the party for the community.

“It was an overwhelming success,” Navarro said. “We had 120 families attend, we gave out 167 toys and 150 coats and sweaters,”

Navarro said Community Partnership is excitedly looking forward to hosting it again next year.

Although there are already existing holiday gift programs for children in the community such as Lodi Adopt A Child, some families are not able to take advantage of the programs or don’t get their applications in on time, Navarro said.

“For some kids on the east side they don’t get presents, so we wanted to give them something because with all the programs and donations that happen during the holidays they still miss out,” Navarro said.

The Community Partnership’s decision to host the event also came together after securing funds that allowed them to purchase gifts and work with local donors such as Jillian's Consignment Boutique, Life Line Thrift, Costco, United Way San Joaquin, Grupe Real Estate and families that worked with Community Partnership in the past.

“I love helping the community and I always help out when I can, ” said Marika Paternostro, the owner of Jillian’s Consignment Boutique.

Paternostro donated coats and sweaters for the event and even wrote a check to Community Partnership, because she believes it is a worthy cause that helps families in the community.

According to Navarro, Community Partnership also received a grant of $2,500 from United Way of San Joaquin County, which helped provide funds to organize the event.

“When we were giving the grants we focused on Community Partnership, because of their involvement with the children in the community,” said Mary Luna, who volunteers with United Way.

“They were so passionate and detailed about what they wanted to do and we could feel their passion and we felt good giving it to them,” said Luna.

Navarro felt inspired to host the event because she felt that local toy drives focus on what the kids want. Instead, she wanted to provide an experience for the kids, which is why they offered crafts and activities, as well as allowing the kids to pick out their own sweaters and jackets.

“We ran out of everything, and the kids got a little impatient with designing their ornaments, but it was amazing, and we were just so happy with everything,” Navarro said.

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