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Morongo Helps Brighten the Holidays for 2,500 Inland Children

The Morongo Band of Mission Indians continued its annual philanthropy outreach this holiday season, sponsoring a shopping spree in a toy shop for more than 2,500 low income children from across the Inland Empire just days before Christmas.

The Christmas Cheer All Year shopping spree took place on Tuesday, December 20 at the Toys 'R Us in Ontario, California. It was organized by Fox 11 News journalist Rick Lozano with a donation of $100,000 in cash and services from the Morongo Band, the sponsor of this year’s event.

“The Morongo Band of Mission Indians is delighted to be partnering with Christmas Cheer All Year to make holiday dreams come true for thousands of disadvantaged Inland children,” Morongo Tribal Chairman Robert Martin said. “In this season of giving, we are especially humbled to be bringing a measure of holiday joy to hundreds of local children who the County is sheltering from abuse and neglect.”

Children from Redlands to Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside, Beaumont, Banning and across the Inland region took part in the shopping spree. Each was given a $35 gift card to purchase toys. Among the children were 450 foster children from the San Gorgonio Pass who are in protective custody through the Riverside County Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) Children’s Services Division. County funds were not available this year to provide the children with holiday gifts. Without Morongo’s help, many of children would have gone without a present, Lorenzo said. “Morongo has helped ensure that thousands of children will experience a happy holidays. To see the smiles on the faces of these kids at a time when so many families are struggling is a true testament to the meaning behind the holiday season.”

“These tough economic times have forced everyone from families to public agencies to focus on the necessities to stay within their budgets,” said Riverside County Supervisor Marion Ashley. “The Morongo Band of Mission Indians should be applauded for their commitment to making sure the most vulnerable and innocent members of our community – children in need –won’t go without this holiday.”

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The children emerged from the store clutching everything from Barbie dolls to stuffed animals, Batman action figures, Lego play sets and video games, a tribal spokesman said. Six-year-old Patrick M. bought Star Wars toys and a Sponge-Bob Square Pants Snow Cone maker. “It makes snow cones you can eat,” Patrick declared, adding, “I like snow cones.” The gifts that many of the children received Tuesday will be the only presents that they receive this holiday season, organizers said.

“This is the first year that we were not going to be able to provide foster children in the County with a holiday gift,” Laurie Fineman, Deputy Director of Children's Services at Riverside County's Department of Public Social Services, said. “We put out the call for help and the Morongo Band of Mission Indians answered to make sure our kids’ holiday dreams came true in the San Gorgonio Pass.”

Morongo transported dozens of children from the San Gorgonio Pass Region to the shopping spree, including Annee S., a 10-year-old from Cabazon, who used her gift card to buy a makeup set and a clip set.

“The families we serve are really struggling as our region continues to experience some of the highest poverty rates in the County,” said Josie Coates, program manager of the James A. Venable Community Center in Cabazon. “Morongo has always been there to support our programs and the kids are thrilled to be taking part in this year’s shopping spree.”

The Morongo Band of Mission Indians has a long tradition of giving, and contributes more than $1 million annually to support communities and non-profit organizations across the Inland Empire and Southern California.