By CATHERINE GRATTAN     12/19/2023

Catholic Charities of Orange County has been busy this holiday season spreading Christmas cheer to families who need it most!

Dec. 16 marked the first day of the 2023 Christmas Blessings Gift Distribution program at the Christ Cathedral Cultural Center, which continued Dec. 18 and Dec. 19.

All 506 recipient families who registered for the program were adopted by over 50 caring organizations and individuals who lovingly shopped and wrapped gifts for each family they sponsored.

“It is truly a Christmas miracle,” remarked Madie Fugate, who is in charge of CCOC’s Christmas Blessings program.

CCOC’s dedicated volunteers and staff worked tirelessly transporting gifts down from the third floor of the Cultural Center to ensure all families who signed up to pick up their gifts were helped and served with a smile. Among these families include one gentleman who was kidnapped from his home country of Mexico and is barely making ends meet, desperately trying to give his kids a better life than the one he has lived through.

CCOC is currently helping process his request for asylum under the law. When asked about his family, he replied, “My daughter is the light of our lives. She has a heart condition that requires constant doctor visits… My wife is a housekeeper, she works long hours during the day. I myself work graveyard shifts, running on low sleep hours to take care of our beloved daughter. We left everything behind us when I was kidnapped… Starting from scratch has been a challenging task but with God’s help, we have managed to at least provide shelter and food for our daughter. We are beyond grateful to be able to participate in this program.” (editor’s note: names were omitted for privacy)

With all the hustle and bustle that the season brings, it is the hearts of those CCOC is able to bless that keep the organization going. Families in need were able to receive toys, bikes, scooters and gift cards for their children thanks to benefactors from parishes including Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church, St. Norbert Catholic Church, St. Bonaventure Catholic Church, San Antonio de Padua Catholic Church, St. Thomas More Catholic Church, St. Hedwig Church, St. Pius V Catholic Church, St. Irenaeus Catholic Church, La Purisima Catholic Church, Sts. Simon & Jude Catholic Church, St. Martin de Porres Catholic Church, Santa Clara de Asis Catholic Church, St. Juliana Falconieri Catholic Church, St. Anne’s Seal Beach, Holy Family Catholic Church, Holy Trinity Catholic Church and Corpus Christi Catholic Church.

Several Catholic Schools also participated in the blessing of families, including St. Junipero Serra Catholic School, St. Jeanne de Lestonnac School, Mater Dei High School, Christ Cathedral Academy and Castille Elementary School. CCOC also thanks organizations, including Catholic Charities Auxiliary, the Department of Catholic Schools, SSJ Mary’s Matters and the Diaconate class of 2026 for adopting families in need.

CCOC is amazed at just how impactful the Christmas Blessings gift pick-up went and looks forward to continuing to distribute gifts to families on Three Kings Day on Jan. 5 at the Cantlay Food Distribution Center. Those interested in volunteering for Three Kings Day can sign up at https://qrco.de/beb4z9. To  support CCOC’s Year-End Giving Campaign, text HOPE2023 to 91999.