Angel Carguachi and his daughters, Estefania and Yareli, stand for a photo at the Nourishing Hope Toy Drive.
After moving into a new apartment recently, Martha Gomez worried about not having enough money for Christmas gifts for her grandchildren.
Money had already been tight with the inflationary rise in prices for food, gas and just about everything else. But thanks to those who supported the Nourishing Hope Toy Drive, her four grandkids — ages 6, 9, 11 and 14 — will indeed have gifts to open around the tree in the community room of her apartment building.
Gomez smiled broadly as she loaded games and toys into her car outside Nourishing Hope’s Sheridan Market.
“God bless this place,” said Gomez, who works as a part-time caregiver. “This pantry makes things so much easier.”
The holiday spirit was in no short supply on the final day of the annual toy distribution for children of families who receive services from Nourishing Hope. In total, this year’s toy drive provided some festive delight for 620 children — and relief to their parents, too.
In recent months, Nourishing Hope has served double the number of families with children compared to last year — a sure sign of the economic burden of inflation. The rate of inflation growth is finally easing up a bit, according to the latest economic numbers, but food prices continue to rise.
“This is the reason we’ll have presents under the tree this year,” said Stephanie, a mother of five children, as she browsed the toy room.
The Nourishing Hope Toy Drive dates back to 1998, when a group of Lakeview neighbors — in partnership with Lakeview Pantry — organized the effort to ensure children had presents to open for the holidays. In 2010, the effort was rededicated to honor the memory of Vincent Babiarz, a young boy who died in a tragic accident.
Nourishing Hope continues to partner with the Babiarz family to keep the toy drive going and to honor Vincent’s life and memory by bringing joy to children in need.
Joy was abundant on this final day of the toy distribution. Visitors immediately came upon a festive display of flowers, poinsettias and holiday decorations at the front desk of the Sheridan Market. Holiday music, such as Chicago native Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas,” filled the room. Volunteers then guided the visitors upstairs to the toy room.
Cash, a 2-year-old boy, sprang from the arms of his mother, Erin Williams, upon arriving in the toy room. Enthusiastically, he compared the sizes and colors of various toy trucks — a running monologue that prompted laughter from his mom and nearby volunteers.
Just earlier, a young girl named Jamie raced around the room looking for gifts for her two sisters and her mother, Maribel Molina, looked on. The girl was thrilled to find a pink and purple unicorn for herself. They had immigrated from Ecuador two years ago.
Angel Carguachi and his two daughters, ages 4 and 9, also had immigrated from Ecuador, only four months ago. The father looked on, smiling, as his daughters found various treasures on the shelves of the toy room.
This winter, he said, would be his daughters’ first experience with snow.
Es nuestro primero Navidad en Chicago, he said.
“It’s our first Christmas in Chicago,” Carguachi said. “We’re going to celebrate together, maybe with a dinner, but nothing complicated — a small dinner would be good.”