By Bob Allen

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Parents were at the former CJ Mangin School in Monaca to play Santa Claus.
They were there choosing free toys to put under the tree to fulfill dreams on Christmas morning.

They toys are being donated by the Network of Hope, along with five churches in the Monaca area that helped raise $15,000 to $20,000 to buy Christmas presents for the children.

“We talked to school districts, police officers, social workers and began to connect with different families that are in need,” said Jared Bellan with City Reach Church.

Some of the money was donated by local business owners like David and Kimberly Simons who are also serving as volunteers.

“Good to give back to the community, this is the way to celebrate Christmas,” Simons said.

Parents were all smiles and they loaded their baskets and arms with toys and other gifts.
Programs like this can only help reduce the pressure.

“It means a lot. If I didn’t have this help, my kids would have far less than I can provide,” said parent Jodi Hemer.

“Out of work at this time of year, it really helped out a lot – it really means a lot,” said parent Tony Monac.

The massive community effort is expected to provide toys for kids from at least 150 families on Christmas day.

“We just want to bring hope to families during Christmas and let them know, no matter where they are, that we love them, that God loves them and the community is here to stand with them during the Christmas season,” Bellan said.

The focus Sunday was to get toys under the tree on Christmas day, but the Network of Hope has a number of other services it’s offering families such as food on the table, counseling and also help with their utility bills. The goal is to help families get off to as good a start as possible in 2014.

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