Lighthouse party provides early Christmas for needy families

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Caleb Huggins, 6, didn’t wait to get out of line to play with the electronic guitar he was given Saturday at the Lighthouse Mission Children’s Christmas Party. His mother Tia Koenig, left, said she was happy her son got what he wanted.

By Liliana Castillo: CNJ staff writer

When Caleb Huggins was handed a musical toy guitar and his eyes lit up, his mother got her Christmas present early.

Tia Koenig and her three children attended the Lighthouse Mission Children’s Christmas Party Saturday and each member of the family got exactly what they wanted.

Jerri Gomez with the Mission said families started lining up outside the mission for the party at 5:30 a.m.

The party served a record 1,011 children this year, Gomez said. She said that the economy is what brought 400 more children to the party than last year.

“I think parents are having a harder time this year,” she said.

“He wanted that guitar and I couldn’t get it for him,” Koenig said. “This party is a big help.”

Koenig’s 3-year-old daughter Grace Huggins had surgery last week to remove her tonsils and adenoids.

“That can put some stress on the financial situation,” the mother said.

Caleb had one thing to say.

“It’s what I’ve always wanted,” he said as he tried to play with the guitar in the box, walk and carry a gift bag.

Margaret Babers brought her grandson Romeo Rodriguez to the event.

“I thought it would be good for the kids to have a good time,” she said.

Because Babers is disabled and unable to work, she said the party is exactly what she needed.

“It really helped us out,” she said. “This is the best thing that could happen in Clovis.”

Almost 40 volunteers were at the event handing out snacks, boxes of chocolate cherries, coloring books, candy, pizza and presents to the families who made their way through the Mission.

“I feel that (the party) is very much worth the effort because when you can bring happiness to a child during these times of economic crisis, that’s what it’s all about,” Gomez said.

“There’s a lot of kids that are very happy,” Gomez said.