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GRIP fulfills children’s holiday wish list

on December 25, 2009

All 35 homeless children living at the Greater Richmond Interfaith Program (GRIP) shelter received presents from their Christmas wish list. From Dora the Explorer toys to Sony PlayStation 3, each child received several gifts from their list.

The children living at the GRIP family shelter, located at 165 22nd Street, made a list of gifts they wanted for the holiday season. The list was passed on to Manusiu Laulea, the case manager at GRIP. The most requested items were scooters, skateboards, Sony PlayStation 3s and Apple ipods.

Manusiu Laulea, case manager at GRIP, draws many groups to donate gifts for the kids at the shelter.

Manusiu Laulea, case manager at GRIP, draws many groups to donate gifts for the kids at the shelter.

Despite a slow economic year, Laulea still managed to draw donations from local churches, corporations, and individuals. She asked businesses and groups to sponsor families by donating $10-$20 per child or buying items on their wish list.

“We are really thankful because we were able to get the things the children asked for,” said Laulea. “We only expected two or three groups to participate but we got about 300 items donated from seven different groups.”

This year AC Transit sponsored all 20 families and bought items on everyone’s wish lists. St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Albany gave each family a $20 gift card to Target.

Maria Salazar, 40, has been living at the shelter with her 16-year-old son for four months.

“He will be very happy to see that he got what he asked for: a skateboard, a jacket, gloves and a radio.”

Irma Saguero gets ready to surprise her 11-year-old daughter.

Irma Saguero gets ready to surprise her 11-year-old daughter.

Holly Raven, 27, and her husband have four kids with ages ranging from 8 months to 9-years-old. The family of six has been living at the GRIP family shelter for six months after Raven’s husband was laid off from his dry-wall construction job. Since moving to the shelter, they have been learning how to manage their finances so they can get back on their feet.

“My husband and I have been struggling so this is means a lot for us,” said Holly Raven. “The gifts help bring Christmas to my family.”

The GRIP shelter is the only family shelter in Richmond. It has a clean policy, requiring residents  to be alcohol and drug-free.

But Laulea said the shelter is open to all and willing to assist those with substance abuse problems.

Irma Saguero planned to surprise her 11-year-old daughter on Christmas Eve with a bag of dolls and toys.

“This is one of the best Christmases we’ve had in a long time,” said Saguero, 37. She smiled and said, “This year we definitely felt the Christmas spirit.”

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