Community helps spread Christmas cheer at children’s homes

By Alisa Boswell: PNT staff writer

A day at the New Mexico Christian Children’s Home in Portales is almost like any other family household.

There is the daily routine of the children going to school, coming home and doing chores and homework.

But during the holidays, family takes on a special meaning with lots of help from surrounding communities.

Executive Director Charles Anderson, who has been with the home for 39 years, said the home’s children have been given several Christmas parties already this year by local churches and other New Mexico and Texas organizations, including motorcycle groups from Hobbs and Muleshoe.

“We’ve had an amazing, fulfilling time of the year,” Anderson said. “The kids can’t believe that people who don’t even know them want to give them things.”

Anderson said the Cannon Air Force Base 27th Medical Group also sponsored a Christmas event and donated presents.

Anderson said he came from Odessa, Texas, to work in the home for two years, but his love for his work and the children under his care has kept him in Portales.

“It’s happy, it’s sad, it’s up, it’s down, but mostly, it’s up,” Anderson said. “Seeing the kids making a turnaround in their lives is great. We’ve had kids come in rebellious and unhappy and leave the opposite.”

Brian Zagara, a house parent at the home, said he and his wife, Jennifer, like to stress to the 10 children under their supervision the importance of celebrating Christmas as Christ’s birthday and the importance of giving to others and appreciating the “blessings” they receive.

Zagara said a private source donates presents each year for children of the home to give to other families in need.

“It’s really neat to hear the young kids be so grateful for Christ and learning about Christmas as his birthday and the way they express it through their own words and prayers,” Zagara said.

Zagara said his children are overwhelmed with the multiple presents donated to the home each year. Many organizations and businesses ask the home parents to send wish lists, so the children receive exactly what they want for Christmas.

“I’ve never had a kid disappointed at Christmas,” Zagara said.

Austin Moore, a 14-year-old in Zagara’s house, said he has been in the home for eight years and has always been happy there.

Moore said the presents and parties the children have been given so far this year have been “awesome” and he looks forward to Christmas morning when he hopes to receive video games or an iPod Touch.

Ashley Aldama, 7, who has been at the home a year and a half, said she was given a giant sketch book and an art set this year and also hopes for Zhu Zhu Pets and Littlest Petshop toys.

“I like the art set ’cause it comes with paper and other cool stuff,” Aldama said. “I thought it was nice and we should get them (donation givers) a special little present too.”

Aldama said she looks forward to Christmas, because she gets to go home to see her family.

Bianca Garcia of Bonem House in Portales, said their home has also received many generous donations, including presents from the Ladies’ Auxiliary in Portales.

Garcia said the children have had many Christmas pageants and concerts through their school and a Christmas party will be thrown for them Thursday night.

“Our staff is very grateful to know that all we have to do is ask and our community will step up and help,” Garcia said. “A lot of our kids have never had a Christmas like this, so they get really excited.”

Moises Barela, who has been a youth care specialist at the Bonem home for three and a half years, said it is rewarding and exciting to see the difference made in the lives of the children through the kindness and giving of others.

“It’s been really great,” Barela said. “A lot of these kids come from really rough homes, but a lot of them, you can see the progress they’ve made. It’s a really cool thing to see.”