Wimauma mission celebrates the gift of giving
WIMAUMA - For two straight weekends, water threatened to wash away a group's efforts to bring holiday cheer to those in need. Still, about 2,000 people braved a dreary, rainy Saturday morning to attend the Good Samaritan Mission's annual gift giveaway. "This is our 18th year doing the gift giveaway, but we didn't start out big like this," said Theresa Cruz, who leads the mission with her husband, Bill. "Like with our yearly Thanksgiving event, we started with about 25 people and it just continued to grow." Each child received clothing and toys. Each room at the mission, 14920 Balm-Wimauma Road, contained items for a particular gender and age group - infants, ages 4 to 11 and 12 and older - and the kids got the chance to walk through and shop for their presents.The toys and clothes were donated by businesses, churches and other charitable organizations across Hillsborough County. That same spirit of giving came in handy when an accident threatened to put a damper on the event. Sometime last weekend, a pipe burst in the ladies room of the preschool building adjacent to the mission, which is where the presents were being kept. Many of the toys that had been placed on the floor were damaged. "We had a huge outpouring of support, and we had a bunch of people bring us toys yesterday," said volunteer Deanna Biscardi. "We must've had about 100 kids out here working to get things ready for today. "That's what really impresses me - I think 90 percent of our volunteers are kids and teenagers." Many of the volunteers escorted the children as they picked their presents. Many of the youngsters come from migrant families, but they're not the only ones susceptible to hardships. "We've got kids here from Apollo Beach, Ruskin, Brandon, all over," Biscardi said. "Today's event is for children who were not going to have anything, or hardly anything, under their tree."