Denise, the mother of a 10-year-old loaded down with gifts on a very special day, had tears in her eyes as she looked around the room.
"Just the fact they came here and did all this work right before Christmas, when I know they've got their own stuff to do," she said. "Giving of their time like this ... I don't know how to thank them."
Close to 1,500 area children passed through the halls and auditorium of Quail Valley Elementary School throughout the day. All had pre-registered and were qualified as low-income in advance by the Community Cupboard. Children got to pose for photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus in addition to selecting gifts from tables loaded with thousands of donated toys. At other stations, the kids got to color in a personalized memory book, play a bean bag toss game and select additional gifts from tables of books, puzzles and other items.
"It's so awesome," she said about seeing the joy of the children. "It's worth all the hours we put in. To see everything come together is so exciting.
"I saw one little boy who had an armful of gifts, but the thing he was most excited about was that he had a teddy bear with a bell on it. He was jumping up and down just because of that teddy bear."
"I made six or seven trips to bring everything from the fire stations over here," said Capt. Leonard Grill of the Menifee Battalion and coordinator of the local Spark of Love campaign. "People came to the fire stations and dropped off toys by the carload. The Women's Club went to the Toy District in L.A. to pick up items. It's amazing to see how it all came together."
As 10-year-old Matthew showed off his Solar Robot, microscope and crystal growing kit, he talked about what Christmas Day would be like for him.
"I'm going to look in my stocking, see my presents, and give my mom a big hug," he said.