Rescue mission

Rescue Mission’s Homeless Elders Respond To Letters To Santa

It’s a very busy time of year for Santa Claus, and you can’t expect him to answer every letter boys and girls send to the North Pole.

Lucky for him, the men and women staying at the San Diego Rescue Mission are helping out this year.

“I feel really special to have the privilege of responding to these letters,” said Brian Castro, 30, who has been on the rescue mission for five months. “It makes me feel pretty special. Today we have the chance to fill their hearts with happiness and joy. And there is nothing more exciting for a child than to believe in Santa Claus.

Castro, who is enrolled in the Mission Academy’s one-year residential program at the Downtown Mission, was at a table with other academy students on Friday morning to create handwritten responses to the children who had filed claims. letters to Santa Claus in a large letterbox in front of a Coronado house.

The mailbox is located at Nicole Billock, Vice-Chair of the Mission’s Finance / Fundraising Committee. Billock said she and her husband set up the letterbox as part of their Christmas exhibit last year and invited children to drop off letters through the Coronado Happenings Facebook page. About 400 letters were filed and Billock said the youth group at his church wrote responses to the children.

This year, she saw letters as a perfect activity to help former homeless people connect with the community. The first 60 were delivered to the mission this week with sample writing responses. Each letter is handwritten and personalized to respond to the child who wrote it.

Gary Dellisant, 22, liked the templates.

“I’m not a good writer,” he says. “I have already had three drafts.”

But Dellisant, who has been at the mission for nine months, said he enjoys helping out in any way he can, volunteering with the Urban Surf for Kids group.

Devon Edwards, 26, wore a Santa hat as he wrote responses to the children.

“It’s just cool enough to think that three months ago I was just living for myself and a paycheck,” he said. “I am a bit of a reformed person and I can spread good joy. A little Christmas cheer, if you will.

Edwards was working as a pipelayer in Pennsylvania and said he was using drugs when he decided to move to San Diego and reorient his life two months ago.

“I came here with just a backpack of stuff and no plan,” he said. “If I couldn’t figure it out, at least that would be hot.”

He asked a gas station attendant where he could find an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, and he was directed to the rescue mission. While there, he learned that they did not hold AA meetings, but that they had something else to offer.

“I spoke to the therapist who said, ‘How would you like to spend the next year here, getting your life back in hand? ” “, did he declare. “I got involved on the spot.”

Castro said he was also on a life-changing mission. He spent eight years in prison and his fiance died in a car accident while he was incarcerated.

“Long story short, I made a few mistakes a few years ago,” he said. “I was homeless for a few years and was trying to get back on my feet on my own. It wasn’t working at all.

Castro said his family struggled growing up in Mexico and sometimes Christmas was just another day. As he filled out letters to the children, he said he hoped he brightened Christmas for them.

“It’s a special day for me,” he said of the vacation. “I am a person who enjoys serving others. I find a lot of joy and peace there. This place gives me the opportunity to do it. There are many people in need and we need to share the blessings we have.

A response written by one of the participants in the San Diego Rescue Mission Residential Program alongside the child’s letter to Santa Claus.

(Kristian Carreon / For the San Diego Union-Tribune)

Billock said those who responded to the children’s letters have been asked to note those that indicate their families are in need. Last year, her family helped some families after finding out about their situation through letters from their children, she said.

“We are receiving letters from Chula Vista and San Ysidro,” she said. “I’ve had people from as far away as Rancho Bernardo.”

Billock said people outside Coronado may have heard of the mailbox because they were in the military and previously lived in the city, and have kept in touch with the community via the Coronado Happenings page.

Eufrosina McCoy, 65, was among those who wrote responses to the children on Friday.

“I like to do it,” she said. “I can express my feelings and I want the kids to know that they can get all the gifts they want and have the happiest season.”

Linda Perez, 66, was touched by the sincerity of some of the letters.

“Dear Santa, how are you? Read a letter from a girl named Samantha. “I hope you’re doing well. I help my mom and dad with the things they need to do. I do all my homework, take care of my sister, and help my friends when they get hurt. I am very kind and helpful.

Perez noted that Samantha wasn’t asking for anything for Christmas, and she responded by thanking her for being a good girl and for helping her family and friends.

She said reading the letters reminded her of her great-grandson who lives in Tijuana with his family.

“Some of these letters fill my heart with joy,” she said. “Answering it gives them some hope. And I miss my great-grandson, so I help other kids with their Christmas.