Words by Louise Cassini Holis. Images courtesy of Gloria de los Santos.
It’s not even Fall, but Gloria de los Santos is already thinking about Christmas. For the past 13 years she has been the force behind Kids Wish List, a non-profit organization that gathers school supplies and Angel Tree donations for children in downtown Newport News.
The idea started 13 years ago when Gloria, a Medical Assistant at the Medical and Longevity Center, noticed a lot of children being picked up and dropped off by school buses at the Budget motel that was across from her office. “I went over there and asked the manager if I could do Christmas for the kids that lived there,” explained Gloria, “and she said ‘OK’. I asked people to donate the gifts and everything, and I went and got a truck for the tables and Santa Claus and we celebrated Christmas for those kids outside the motel.”
That first Christmas Gloria brought joy to 68 kids. Now, 13 years later, she and her volunteers distributed gifts to 560 children last Christmas and always hope to do more. Gloria is unsure how they will make adjustments for COVID-19 at this point, “but like I said to everybody, we must do it. So we’re going to have to find a way.”
Businesses like W.M. Jordan Construction, TAG Consulting LLC, and European Beauty Concepts of Williamsburg regularly participate in the Angel Tree program. Evelyn Summers, co-manager of European Beauty Concepts says of EBC’s participation, “It’s lots of fun! We try to beat each other to the list and fight over which kids we get to get gifts for. The clients really enjoy getting gifts for the kids, too.” Spa Technician Barbara Giles says, “Just knowing that you can help kids at that time of year get something for Christmas makes you want to give more. [And] our clients really enjoy it. Some went above and beyond!”
Another generous group are Hampton Roads pilots including military, Fed-EX, and civilian. “We do flight physicals for the pilots here, [at the Medical and Longevity Center] and most of the gifts come from them” shared Gloria. The Virginia Air National Guard at Langley has also assisted the past couple of years, including passing out gifts during Angel Tree’s gift distribution day held at the Boys and Girls Club in downtown Newport News. “The kids really like interacting with them,” she shared.
Gloria has accomplished all this without a website. “I don’t know how to do that,” she chuckles, “and you’re going to laugh – I only have black and white paper to get people to help, so that’s what I know to do, and people say, ‘Oh, you need to get fancy’. I don’t know how to get fancy, plus with my black and white paper I get what I need for the kids! It’s not about me, it’s about the kids.”
Her persistence even led her to partner with TAG Consulting LLC to bring a production of Layton Grays’ Black Angels Over Tuskegee to the Ferguson Center in October of 2017. She then partnered with the Tidewater Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen, to provide Hampton School students and the general public the opportunity to see this important show in March of 2019.
Want to make a child’s wish come true? You can donate to Kids Wish List year round or host an Angel Tree at your business during the holidays by contacting Gloria: 757-879-9982 or dropping off your donation at 11000 Jefferson Ave, Newport News, VA 23601.