Los Tres Reyes Deliver Gifts to Boyle Heights Families

Yet hundreds of children turned away because of major drop in donations to 'floating non-profit' that put on the event.
Children enjoy the live entertainment and happily wait their turn to receive gifts.
Children enjoy the live entertainment and happily wait their turn to receive gifts.

The Christian Feast of the Epiphany is traditionally observed on Jan. 6, but group of needy children in Boyle Heights received an early visit from Melchior, Gaspar, and Baltasar, who arrived a few days early bearing gifts.

Operation Youth Educational Services Inc's (Operation Y.E.S.) 4th Annual Three Kings/ Día de Los Tres Reyes Magos event was held Jan. 2 at the South Central Seventh Day Adventist Church on Euclid Avenue.

The day commemorates the visit that Three Wise Men, or Three Kings, are said to have made to Bethlehem bearing gifts shortly after the birth Jesus. It is a tradition observed by many Latino families.

The event at the church in the Boyle Heights district on the Eastside of Los Angeles included three separate sessions, each with entertainment and gifts for a total of 658 children and their families. All of the recipients had determined to be living below the poverty level or undergoing financial hardship due to their parents' unemployment. Besides the program and gifts, donated guitars were raffled-off for use by the oldest child in the family.

According to Juan "Johnny Jay" Jimenez, volunteer and acting president of Operation Y.E.S., 800 low-income children — including 300 children whose families are welfare recipients — were turned-away because donations were down 55 percent this year.

Even some of their biggest donors of past years, such as Sparks of Love, CHIPS, Toys For Tots, L.A. County Sheriffs Department and U.S. Rep. Judy Chu, gave less this year, Jimenez said in a written statement.

Jiminez is the son of Mexican immigrants, and his father initially came to the U.S. illegally but later served in World War II. Jimenez is known to send out religious email blasts to media and other contacts. During the Three Kings celebration, he shared his faith and life experiences with the families in attendance.

Jiminez told them that he was born with a birth defect on his right arm, which greatly limits his range of motion. Despite being an altar boy, he was kicked-out of several Catholic schools, including Our Lady of Talpa, Lourdes, Assumption and St. Mary's, for fighting with children who made fun of his handicap.

Jiminez said that he "learned to be a gangster" at Hollenbeck Middle School. Years of consuming alcohol, using drugs and abusing his girlfriends followed.

Then Jiminez began to read the Bible and joined a Bible study group, he said.

The 68-year-old diabetic said he has been blessed with two miracles since he turned to the Bible: a "new liver" soon after being diagnosed with liver disease, and the healing of a leg wound in 45 days, not an easy accomplishment for a diabetic.

While sharing his belief in God's love, Jimenez focused on the importance of loving each other.

"Parents love your children" he concluded. "Children love your parents. No more drinking, no more drugs, no more fighting."

Operation Y.E.S. is a "floating non-profit" with no permanent headquarters. The organization receives no government funding. It has served the community for approximately 35 years, according to Jimenez. Sponsors of this year's Three Kings celebration included ALTAMED Health and Senior Services, Dr. Gabriel J. Halperin, Lorena Pharmacy, White Memorial Foundation, Pronto Pizza- E.L.A./HP, and the Global Premier Development, Inc.

Jimenez said his organization is $1,800 in debt after putting-on the event.

Donations can be mailed to OPERATION Y.E.S. Inc., c/o Los Tres Reyes, P.O. Box 33165, Los Angeles, CA 90033. All contributions are tax deductable.

Gloria Angelina Castillo is a writer for Eastern Group Publications.

EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo.

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