Julian Navarrete wanted to turn the tables on Christmas.
He asked his family to concentrate on giving back this year, not getting.
So Navarrete brought his extended family together in October to brainstorm how they could help the community. They raised money and got donations to put together more than 200 bags of snacks, bottled water and personal items such as soap and toothpaste for people who ate Christmas dinner at the Lord’s Diner on North Broadway.
“We wanted to teach our kids about giving back, for them to see the other side,” Navarrete said, calling the effort “Project Giving Back.”
Project Giving Back even had its own Facebook page, which Navarrete asked friends to share on social media.
“We got a lot of support,” he said. “My chiropractor and my dentist helped.”
The family stuffed the bags at Navarrete’s house assembly-line style. Pink bags were for women. Clear bags were for men.
Navarrete’s family – including his brother, sister, brother-in-law, sister-in-law and their families – set up shop inside the front door at the midtown Lord’s Diner, a service of the Catholic Diocese of Wichita that serves a hot meal 365 days a year. Family members handed out the bags as diners were leaving after eating a traditional holiday meal of ham, mashed potatoes, rolls and pie.
Navarrete’s wife, Cita, stayed home with their children, who were too young to be at the Lord’s Diner. But all of the children – 4-year-old Jasmine, 12-year-old Christopher and 5-year-old Aubrey – helped.
“This has really gotten the whole family together,” Navarrete said.
The family learned along the way that there is a second Lord’s Diner on South Hillside.
“We hope next year to serve both locations,” Navarrete said.
Sheryl Gulick, volunteer coordinator for the Lord’s Diner, said Navarrete contacted her about the project. She said the diner served 371 people on Christmas Eve.
Also helping out Christmas Day was the Wichita Police Department, which handed out wrapped toys for children who came to the diner with their families.
Community Policing Officer Steve Jerrell said the department gave out toys at the two Lord’s Diner locations and its mobile truck at Evergreen Recreation Center on North Woodland.
Walgreens gave the police department discounts on the items for the gifts, and Davis-Moore paid for them, Jerrell said.
“It’s kind of become a tradition,” Jerrell said, noting that the police department had been handing out presents for three years.
Gifts for girls included stuffed animals, and the police department gave out toy cars to boys.
“We made sure there were two, because what good is one if you can’t run it into something?” Jerrell joked.