SAN DIEGO—Some needy families were offered help this holiday season thanks to Father Joe Carroll and the opening of Santa's Workshop at St. Vincent de Paul Wednesday.
Homeless parents were able to pick donated gifts from the workshop's store to give their children on Christmas Day.
For Alicia Gibbs, a single mother of three, the store was a sweet surprise.
"It's amazing," Gibbs said. "I thought my kids wouldn't have Christmas because we had some financial difficulties this year that ended up, you know, where we have to stay in a shelter."
Store organizers aim to offer a sense of dignity for the parents. Father Joe said the first year they offered gifts, community members gave them to the children and the parents didn't have anything to offer on Christmas morning. This way, the parents can be the ones to give the presents.
"The kids come and say, 'Look what mom and dad gave me' not 'Look what Father Joe gave me or St. Vincent's gave me or such and such company,'" said Father Joe. "We want them to realize Christmas is mom and dad taking care of their children."
Father Joe is also offering the kids an opportunity later in the week to pick out a present for their parents. On Wednesday, there were rows and rows of toys, balls, dolls, Lego's, and games for kids of all ages. There were stacks of presents several feet tall. The gifts selected by families were then wrapped by volunteers like Manuel Flores.
"It's wonderful, makes me feel like I'm Santa Claus," said Flores. "I really enjoy it. I get to sleep real good at night."
For families like Gibbs the gifts are priceless.
"It's nice for someone to do that for you especially when you feel like you're at your lowest point and then all of the sudden Father Joe comes in and says, 'Hey, your kids are going to get gifts. They're going to have a Christmas,'" said Gibbs. "That's amazing to me that someone would actually help us like that."