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Gift of Giving Makes Norwalk Christmas Brighter

Anthony Giordano, 5, had no idea his mother was doing Santa's bidding Wednesday morning – the Christmas presents she picked up were packed in ordinary brown paper bags. Actually, not that ordinary: They were lawn and leaf bags, big enough to hold presents for several children. Some families got more than one bag.

The Christian Community Action annual Gift of Giving, held at the Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now building at 98 S. Main St. for the last time, was very organized. Each bag was numbered and filled with presents for a specific child or children. Each child received a toy, clothing and a book, donated by members of the community.

CCA has been asked to vacate the NEON offices by Feb. 28. "It may be a blessing in disguise," said CCA board member Don Roth, hoping for better accommodations. "But one-half of our clients are walk-ins. So you gotta stay in the neighborhood."

Roth said there were gifts for 750 children in the bags. There were also extra gifts for those who missed the sign up, as well as gift cards.

Gonzalo Martinez was one of the grateful parents. The immigrant from El Salvador works as a cook and has seven children, ranging in age from 10 months to 16 years. "The program is just great, absolutely amazing."

Martinez left his 1-year-old son behind to come to America 15 years ago and was separated from him for four years. He cherishes memories of his son and his oldest daughter hiding behind the couch, hoping to see Santa.

Martinez still follows family tradition, baking cookies for Santa, and he enjoys watching his young children light up at the holidays.

"That's the beauty of Christmas," he said. "You can see there is the magic, and it's such a beautiful thing to see. You know, little soul like that, looking under the tree, looking for the gift."

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