Human Interest

The smiles on their faces said it all.

On Wednesday, Dec. 21, Santa Claus and five of his helpers made one Sedona family’s Christmas better than they could have ever expected.

For several years, city of Sedona staff members have chipped in money and gifts to brighten a less-fortunate family’s holiday season. The Sub for Santa program isn’t a formal city activity, but rather is initiated and coordinated by city employees.  

“They recognize that there is a great deal of need within our community, and come together to make one family’s Christmas a little merrier,” Assistant City Manager Karen Osburn said. “The whole effort really makes us all count our blessings and being able to share those blessings with a family who isn’t quite as fortunate — especially at this time of year — brings us a lot of joy.”

This year’s family was Olgalidia Vicente-Guerra and her daughters, 9-year-old Zaremai and 4-year-old Jasmine. The three live in a single room in the back of a West Sedona home. Even though they knew they would be receiving gifts, it was obvious by the joy on their faces that they had no idea just how many gifts. Five city employees brought in armload after armload of presents for all three.

“It was so heartwarming to see their smiling faces — priceless,” said Deputy City Clerk JoAnne Cook, who organized this year’s gift giving. “This is what Christmas is about. I am so grateful and humbled to be a part of this program and am blessed to be surrounded by such generous and incredible colleagues, councilors, board and commission members and volunteers.”

In all, more than 40 gifts were delivered by Santa and his city helpers. For 4-year-old Jasmine, gifts included a giant doll house, Barbie dolls, clothes and stuffed animals while 9-year-old Zarenai got art sets, shoes, clothing, a Care Bear and bracelets. And for mom, items such as a George Foreman Grill, sleepwear, necklace and candles. As a family they received a DVD player, bedding, games, heater, gift cards and $500 cash.

“Thank you very much. There are no other people like you. God bless you all,” Vicente-Guerra said though interpreter Deniece Gonzales, who works for the Head Start program.

To show her appreciation, Vicente-Guerra made tamales, rice and mole for Santa and his helpers. She and her daughters then hugged everyone as they left.

“I am still in shock and am still taking it all in,” Vicente-Guerra said afterward through Gonzales.

She said a woman at the school heard that the family did not have a Christmas tree and gave them one, which she was also appreciative of.

“I can’t describe this,” she said. “I can’t believe there is this much. Thank you so much. I’m going to church at 6:30 p.m. and I’m going to be sending prayers to them [city staffers] because I appreciate everything they have done.”


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