In the memory of one, it spread to many

Andersen Elementary children and parents collect, distribute gifts to needy families as part of the Jessica Herron Inner-City Partnership.

December 24, 2011|By Britney Barnes
  • Rebecca Anderson, center, hands over a blanket, donated by families of Andersen Elementary, to Julieana Murillo, 7, second from left, as her mother Christina, top left, and sister Brianna, 10, far left, watch on Wednesday at the Murillo home in Santa Ana. Anderson is accompanied by, from right, her daughter Bella, 12, Cami Young and Young's two daughters, Olivia, 8, and Natalie, 10.
Rebecca Anderson, center, hands over a blanket, donated… (KEVIN CHANG, Daily…)

SANTA ANA —The convoy made its way across the street and up the stairs with 12-year-old Bella Anderson bringing up the rear with four oversized Nordstrom shopping bags stuffed with presents.

At Apartment 103 — the number scribbled on the door — the party gingerly walked inside, packing the living room of the studio-turned-two-bedroom apartment where four members of the Murillo family waited.

Moms Rebecca Anderson and Christina Murillo broke the ice with a nice-to-meet-you hug that brought tears to their eyes.

"We have so much stuff for you," Anderson said, looking around at the gifts that covered the white carpet.

Andersen Elementary School's second-grade classes collected the gifts, which on Wednesday night were delivered by Anderson and her two children, Bella and Josh, 8; Cami Young and her daughters, Natalie, 10, and Olivia, 8; and friend Ryan McMonigal, 8.

Theirs was one of seven groups of Santa's helpers this holiday season who ventured outside Newport Beach to bring gifts to families like the Murillos. Each grade level at Andersen adopted a family and spent the first part of December collecting items for Irvine's Congregation Shir Ha-Ma'alot's Jessica Herron Inner-City Partnership.



In memory of Jessica Herron

Andersen first-grade teacher Brenda Colgate was the catalyst.

Former Shir Ha-Ma'alot Rabbi Bernie King created the adopt-a-family program after the Rodney King riots in 1992, and Colgate, a member of the temple, got involved a few years later.

Colgate participated with her family friends, the Herrons, to adopt a family not just during Christmas, but year-round, taking them to places like the beach and Disneyland.

Jessica Herron, 19, a Woodbridge High School graduate and Vanderbilt University student, died in a car accident in 2005.

Having been involved in the program since she was young, it was renamed in her honor.

"Jessica was the one who was so enthusiastic about the program ... her life was dedicated to helping other people," Colgate said. "Her death moved me so much that I wanted to do something more."

Colgate brought the program to her school by asking her students to give to it instead of her during the holidays.

The class was generous, she said, and other teachers soon joined in.

Last year, Colgate handed the reins over to the school's Kids Addressing Needs, or K.A.N., a coalition of the student council, students and the Parent Teacher Assn., to spread the program to the entire school.

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