By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula Times
It was “Joy to the World” and joy to a little boy with a lot of friends at Vons that surprised him Christmas Eve with a visit with Santa, lots of presents and plenty of affection. And the goodwill was also extended to a Starbucks barista that has been tutoring the special needs child.
Vons employee Rosie Villa organizes the event each year to benefit a child selected by a staff member: Villa said longtime clerk Linda Reyes this year urged store staff adopt for the holidays 7-year-old Jeshua Felipe.
Villa said Vons’ staff reviewed Jeshua’s Christmas wish list to purchase presents and contributed a present and gift cards “To Laura’s favorite places,” to recognize her year-round generosity in tutoring Jeshua.
Toys for Tots also contributed gifts via Marines Jose Garcia and Sgt. Fernando Aguirre.
While waiting for Santa and Jeshua to arrive, Store Manager Ricardo Perez said the Santa Paula Vons is “The first store I’ve been with that has done this, at least to this extent.
“It really gives insight into how tight this community is...”
Santa soon arrived and first on his agenda was telling Vons employees what good girls and boys they had been in adopting Jeshua for the holidays.
And when the boy arrived he was wide-eyed as Santa told him, “Look at what all your friends at Vons did for you!”
“Thank you everybody!” Jeshua said from Santa’s lap as he started to realize that indeed he was the recipient of every wrapped gift under the decorated Christmas tree in the market’s second floor break room.
With her husband Carlos Felipe at her side watching his son with Santa, Jeshua’s mother Gloria said the family was overwhelmed at the generosity of Vons’ employees: “He wasn’t going to have a Christmas this year,” she noted. “We really appreciate this, the wonderful Vons’ employees,” who rallied around Jeshua to ensure his holiday would include presents.
Also in for a surprise was Starbucks employee Laura Sandoval who has been tutoring the boy, first paid for by Reyes and later on her own.
Sandoval said she has been working with Jeshua, a Grace Thille Elementary School 1st grader, for several months on his study habits, “His reading, his math...”
It’s good practice for the aspiring educator, a graduate of California State University Channel Islands, now working on a teaching credential and studying for a masters degree.
Jeshua, said his sponsor Reyes, “Is my best friend-forever!
“This Vons is a family store,” where Reyes said the employees also consider themselves family.
Whatever the need, “We have always pulled together...”