Lighthouse Mission celebrates with annual Christmas party

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Klaudette Benavidez, 5, was wide-eyed with excitement Saturday as she and her siblings were given gifts for Christmas at the Lighthouse Mission Christmas Party.

By Gabriel Monte: CNJ staff writer

Seven Doran jumped in excitement Saturday as she left the Lighthouse Mission Christmas party with her family.

The 4-year-old had received a tea set and a Barbie doll, but that wasn’t what made her jump.

“I got a balloon,” Seven said clutching the balloon’s string in her tiny hand.

About an hour before, Seven and her brothers Dillan, 3, and Billy, 8, and their mother Jennifer lined up with other families outside the mission’s doors on La Cassillas street for the party.

The snow from the night before was melting but the temperature settled at 30 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

Christmas music escaped from inside the mission as a volunteer opened a door to let them in for the party.

About 188 families (540 people) came to the event, according to mission executive director Richard Gomez.

Inside volunteers offered hot chocolate, cookies and pizza. As families sat at tables eating, Michael Gomez and his band mates sang Christmas songs.

At a back room, the families moved through different tables collecting, candy, fruits and toys.

The toys were donated by various churches and community groups, according to Richard Gomez.
Curry County Commission Chairman Albin Smith, who volunteered at the party, said it started at 10 a.m. and lasted four hours.

“When we started, people lined up a half a block away,” he said.

Gomez said the mission has held a Christmas party for over 15 years.

“Every year it grows a little bit more,” he said.