The Pueblo Poverty Foundation will host the Bessemer Christmas Extravaganza

Alexis Smith
| The Pueblo Chieftain

In hope of preserving the Christmas spirit alive in a time of want, the Pueblo Poverty Foundation based by Pueblo native, Ray Aguilera, will nonetheless host its annual Bessemer Christmas Extravaganza.

For greater than 20 years, Aguilera, who additionally serves as a metropolis councilman, has hosted the occasion as a reward for the hardworking younger students of Carlile, Columbian, and Minnequa elementary colleges.

The 2019 Bessemer Christmas Extravaganza noticed greater than 1,500 folks in attendance and gifted greater than 1,100 youngsters with stockings filled with sweet and toys and gave away 150 bicycles. With the assist of neighborhood companions, there have been additionally giveaways starting from 67 flu photographs, greater than 30 pizzas and lots of different prizes.

Knowing of the success of this occasion in years previous, Aguilera hopes to make the 2020 extravaganza simply as magical, particularly given the circumstances these younger youngsters are dealing with.

“Our motivation for really wanting to do a good job this year is that I think that kids are really the ones who are struggling,” Aguilera stated. “They don’t know what is going on – if they are going to school, if they are going to get sick, if their parents are going to catch COVID. They have a lot of questions, so we are making every effort to do the best job that we can.”

To accomplish this, Aguilera purchased 200 books, 200 bicycles to provide to youngsters whose households are unable to afford them and is in the technique of on the lookout for skateboards for kids preferring skating to biking.

Aguilera’s cousin, Charlotte Vasquez, helps set up the toy donations for the occasion this yr. So far, she has obtained a $1,000 donation, however so as to make the celebration successful, extra assist is required.

“Anything can help us out – we’re looking for dolls, cars, books, gift cards,” Vasquez stated. “If anybody doesn’t want to go out to buy a gift, even a monetary donation so we can go out and buy the toys.”

Vasquez stated her motivation to make this yr profitable stems from watching as the occasion grows every year and seeing Aguilera do something he can to make this a particular time for the youngsters.

“I just want to make it – especially now with COVID, the kids are suffering just as much as anyone else but more so because I don’t think they really understand, so there is fear,” Vasquez stated. “We just want to help as many kids this year as we can.”

Keeping with the vacation spirit doesn’t cease there, as Aguilera has organized for the households of the college students to obtain items, too, noting that 50,000 kilos of meals will be handed out.

“This year, (Mayor) Nick Gradisar had additional funding and with that the city bought 1,500 turkeys, 1,500 tamales, and 1,500 poticas,” Aguilera stated. “So the city will give people who need it, a bag with those three items, then Care and Share will give them a box of groceries.”

Aguilera stated he hopes to proceed the custom of passing out pizzas, giving flu photographs, and offering different trinkets to the college students this yr.

With time, Aguilera stated he hopes to lift sufficient cash to assist not solely the youngsters from the Bessemer space, however from throughout Pueblo.

“Hopefully in time we can do more,” Aguilera stated. “I would really like to have the ability to give coats and garments, toys, all these issues that actually make a distinction. I had one lady say to me, ‘Those things don’t make them blissful.’ If you’re poor – consider me, these issues actually make folks blissful.

“The reality of it’s, we are able to’t purchase actual costly gadgets. We have to purchase what we are able to afford, so we are able to make it particular for a better variety of youngsters. I haven’t been in a position to generate sufficient cash to do everybody in Pueblo but, but when I get the likelihood earlier than I die — and I’m not able to die — I might like to do it for everybody.”

The most essential exercise the Poverty Foundation does although, Aguilera stated, is maintain a vocabulary problem for the college students of those three colleges.

The aim is to encourage the younger students to study as many new phrases as attainable over the course of the college yr.

“Our hope is that (the vocabulary challenge) will lead to their ability to communicate better,” Aguilera stated.

Aguilera provides incentives together with taking the college students ice skating, bowling, and different numerous actions.

“Then in late May, we take 100 kids from each of the three schools — the kids who learned the most vocabulary words, to watch a Colorado Rockies Game,” Aguilera stated. “Each kid gets a ticket to the game, a gourmet lunch, and $20 to spend any way they choose. The kids absolutely love competing to go to this event.”

Aguilera stated in 2019, the champion of the problem discovered roughly 800 phrases and received the Superintendent’s Writing Award, which he stated proves there’s a correlation between youngsters studying these vocabulary phrases and understanding the best way to use them in dialog.

Abbie Spillman, a Pueblo School District 60 literary specialist who oversees the problem at the colleges, is instrumental to the course of, Aguilera famous.

“She is an amazing person and longtime educator who makes sure that while the kids are learning these words, that they know how to use them effectively to better communicate,” Aguilera stated.

But, with the coronavirus hitting the neighborhood, many of those actions had been postponed, giving Aguilera extra motivation to make the Bessemer Christmas Extravaganza larger and higher than ever earlier than.

With the restrictions on public gatherings growing on account of the spiking variety of COVID-19 circumstances, the particulars of the occasion are nonetheless to be decided.

“We’ve had it at different places,” Aguilera stated. “We’ve had it on the East Side, at the Zaragoza Hall, at Bessemer school and at Columbia. The last couple of years, we have held it at the state fairgrounds because it’s just gotten so big.”

Aguilera stated the basis has not set a date for when the celebration will be held as a result of he’s nonetheless ready on approval for a location.

It is probably going that wherever the celebration is held, it will be accomplished in accordance with COVID-19 restrictions in thoughts, Aguilera stated. So, it’s possible that it will be a drive-thru extravaganza.

For those that want to donate, they’ll attain out to Charlotte Vasquez by calling 719-369-6313.

Chieftain reporter Alexis Smith could be reached by e mail at or on Twitter @smith_alexis27.

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