Santa Claus brought bags of toys to the children at the Isla Vista Youth Projects Wednesday, appearing with the Santa Barbara County Fire Dept. at an event co-sponsored by the Gamma Zeta Alpha fraternity and Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority.
This was the second year Gamma Zeta Alpha has organized the toy giveaway. Fraternity president Jorge Madrid helped to organize the event.
“We’ve worked with [I.V. Youth Projects] before,” Madrid said. “These are all local kids.”
Firefighters from Fire Station 11 brought a fire truck and a fire engine to the I.V. Youth Projects center at 892 Camino del Sur. Each child was given a “junior firefighter” badge and a pencil.
Fireman Vidal Vega gave the children a talk about firefighters. Wearing a complete yellow fire suit, he knelt on the ground and described different parts of the suit in Spanish.
“It’s very thrilling, very heartwarming, to see kids this excited about something you’ve created; it’s very nostalgic too,” Madrid said, watching the children cluster around Vega.
Vega said one of the most frequent problems firefighters have in fires is children hiding from the firefighters, and that the school visits help to make the children comfortable with the firefighters.
“We do this every now and then at schools to show [the children] what we look like, how we sound,” Vega said.
Most of the KKG members helped the children with arts and crafts, making stockings out of construction paper, cotton balls and yarn.
After the firefighters left, a man in a Santa suit arrived, wearing black Harley Davidson boots. He announced his entrance with “Ho ho ho, Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad!”
Madrid said Santa was played by a fraternity brother.
“We really wanted a bilingual Santa,” he said.
Santa, also known as Ruben Cordero, a senior Chicano studies major and secretary of GZA, said he had volunteered for the position of Santa because he enjoys working with children.
“I like kids. I thought it would be fun,” Cordero said. “Every chance we get, we aim our events toward the community; a lot of us come from the same background.”
The children were called up one by one to receive presents from Santa. Ernesto Perez, community service chair for GZA, said the fraternity and sorority contributed their own funds and received a donation of $500 from the Isla Vista Community Resource Center to buy toys.
Perez said Tom’s Toys on State Street provided the fraternity with a discount, and KKG helped the fraternity members wrap the gifts.
“This is the best part,” Perez said as he watched a child accept a gift from Santa.