Spirit of Holiday Giving Sweeps Community

If the old adage “It’s better to give than receive,” is correct, the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony might be one of the best places to be this holiday season.

“I’ve been overwhelmed by the generosity of our community,” said Michelle Leon. “When everyone is so willing to pitch in and make others happy, it’s a win-win for all of us.”

Leon’s summation is not only accurate, but rooted in scientific fact.

According to a recent study by psychologists at the University of British Columbia, human beings are all happier, especially young children—when we give rather than receive.

Author Lara Aknin, a professor of psychology at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia, has found that the joy of helping others is an inherent part of human nature.

“Positive social behavior, include giving time volunteering, giving money to causes or giving gifts and other resources, all correlate to happiness,” Aknin said.

Leon, a certified health educator at the Reno-Sparks Tribal Health Center, is the co-organizer of the RSIC’s gift giving program, Angels for Elders.

Leon and her health center co-worker, Lynn Rodriquez, a patient transporter, came up with the idea to brighten the holidays for elders with Christmas gifts.

“Because of my job, I get to know some of our elders pretty well, and sometimes they confide in me that they might struggle sometimes,” Rodriquez said. “A lot of our elders live on fixed incomes and many don’t have family, so I thought we should do something about that.”

Leon and Rodriquez quickly identified 48 elders who wanted to be part of Angels for Elders.

Those participants provided a wish list of three gift ideas he or she wanted, and even quicker, the RSIC community responded positively.

“Immediately, we had a lot   of staff members at the health center that wanted to give presents to our elders,” Leon said. “When word got out to employees outside the health center, we were easily able to match elders and gift givers.”

However, the actual act of giving out the gifts will be doubly rewarding for Leon and Rodriquez who will personally deliver the presents before Christmas.

“That will definitely be one of the highlights,” Leon said. “We are really looking forward to fulfilling the wishes of our elders.”

Michael Ondelacy, the assistant director of business enterprises and economic development, said he had already caught the Christmas spirit, but when he heard about the opportunity to make the holidays better for RSIC elders, he jumped at the opportunity.

“This was really fun,” Ondelacy said. “It feels good to help, especially since my elder asked for such practical gifts—a sweater, gloves, and the like.”

Leon and Rodriquez confirmed that none of the gift requests from the elders were extravagant.

“Everyone wants usable, everyday-type items,”


Broad smiles, squeals of glee, and the look of wonderment are common during the holidays and the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony Human Services Department is out to ensure that every child has a Merry Christmas.

To that end, Adriana Botello and her staff once again teamed up with the Marines Toys For Tots Foundation to distribute brand new toys to children throughout the Colony and in Hungry Valley.

“We want to make sure every child receives a toy for Christmas,” Botello said. “Partnering with Toys for Tots coordinator Ken Santore and his volunteers is one of our highlights of our year.”

According to Santore, since 1947 Marines have been making Christmas wishes come true for children. Last year, Reno Toys For Tots raised and locally distributed over 86,600 toys for children.

Santore emphasized that all the toys collected by Reno Toys for Tots stay within Washoe County.

He said that his local team works very hard to make Toys for Tots a success, but without the help of concerned citizens and business leaders, the program wouldn’t be successful.

One of those businesses is Toys”R”Us.

Toys”R”Us is proud to work with the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves, a premier community action program, to bring joy to less fortunate children across the country every holiday season. As the largest retail partner in the history of Toys for Tots, Toys”R”Us, has raised nearly $48 million and collected 4 million toys since 2004 thanks to its generous customers.

“Certainly, we need the resources of Toys “R” Us, without the toys, we wouldn’t have this opportunity, plus, we also want to thank our RSIC Tribal Police Department for assisting in the home delivery of toys,” Botello said.  “We are appreciative to Chief Daryl Bill and his officers for making a difference in our community.”

Botello was also quick to acknowledge to the RSIC Tribal Court and the Reno-Sparks Tribal Health Center for their involvement.

“Our point of contact at the health center was Lawana Martinez who organized a food drive and collected toys, too,” Botello said.

She added that because of these RSIC departments efforts, in addition to providing gifts for the children, many of these needy households received food donations. Botello said that the tribal courts made goody bags for the children as well.

Furthermore, in addition to the human services and the police department, other staff members from tribal court, the Chairman’s office and the tribal administrator’s office, joined in the giving by wrapping over 150 gifts generously donated by Toys”R”Us.

“Certainly, our goal was on giving our needy children a brighter Christmas, but giving to others feels so good and helping children allows you to have that great feeling of putting others first.

Botello said it was an honor that the children allowed adults to enjoy their happiness.

“There is no greater reward and it is such humbling work,” Botello said. “It is an absolute privilege to be part of such a great community.”