'All I want for Christmas is to be together'

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Inside “Santa’s Village,” plushy stuff animals hang over barrels of toys, blue bookshelves are stacked with building blocks, puzzles and the sparkling pink dress-up boxes dazzle the children enjoying a toy shopping spree on this Christmas Day.

“It’s a room full of the best toys,” said Mai Lee with The Midnight Mission.

Thousands of toys perfectly on display, the way they would be in a boutique toy store, waited to be chosen by homeless little kids and children living in poverty.

The toy giveaway started at 8 a.m. Tuesday morning with a line of kids and parents wrapped around the block. By almost noon, the line had shortened but still young children sat on the sidewalk waiting for a chance to walk through the toyland.

Staff and volunteers at the Mission say they wanted to recreate the idea of Christmas morning for the children whose families can’t afford to shower them with gifts.

Joyful shouts of “Whoa!” and “Look!” echoed through the crowded maze of toys where each child, ushered by a volunteer, picked out one book, two toys, a sports ball and a stuffed animal.

“I like the look on their faces that they have something that they need. It just satisfies me,” said teenaged volunteer Tony Gasco.

The Midnight Mission separates mom and dad from child when it's time to choose toys.

“The parent usually directs the child to get what they think the child wants,” said Lee. “We separate them so that the child gets exactly what they want.”

Seven-year old Anthony Charles juggled his Matchbox cars and Play-Doh bucket to show off his new Spider-Man toy.

“My mom said this morning Santa came from under the thing in my house last night,” Anthony shouted as he pointed to Santa Claus sitting in his sleigh taking pictures with the children.

He petted the plastic reindeer tied to Santa’s sleigh and asked his mom, “Is he the one that ate my cookies?” 

His mother, Crystal Taylor, laughed and reaffirmed with a wave to Santa that he indeed finished all their chocolate chip cookies.

“Man, this feels good,” she said whose five young sons circled around her legs and played with cousins. This Christmas morning, she, her two sisters, their mom and all 10 grandchildren celebrated together for the first time in a long while.

“We’ve had some family issues so for them to all be home, it’s a blessing,” said Taylor.

As one of her sons came out the end of Santa’s Village, arms full of toys, he hands her a green lanky stuffed frog.

“A gift for you mom,” he offered. 

She laughed and told him that the toys are for him to keep. She hugged the boy as she put the plush toy in a canvas 99-cent store bag. 

“It’s cute,” Taylor said. “They kept asking me what I want for Christmas but I said the best gift is having you guys here with me. That makes me happy.”

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