Chicago REALTOR® Erika Villegas read a recent IARbuzz story about REALTORS® and their local associations giving back to their communities, and she decided to share the story of her family and friends.
Villegas, who works at ERA Mi Casa on West 55th St., writes:
“This holiday season is no different than any other year at the Villegas home. We normally don’t do many gifts among us but we try to brighten the spirit of others. I truly believe in giving back to my community and the less fortunate throughout the year, but we try to go the extra mile during this time of year.
“In 2004, my husband (Jonathan Villegas) and I started adopting a few families by fulfilling their children’s Christmas lists. Every year, we added a family or two, and we added new ideas like becoming lay-away angels by secretly paying lists of total strangers. We have been ‘Secret Santa’ by fulfilling letters from the post office. We have helped several families at my son Benicio’s school for the last five years.
“One of our most memorable years was in 2012, when we traveled to Guatemala and took toys to donate to children who are truly in great need and wouldn’t receive a gift otherwise. During our vacation, we helped build and install a playground at a school.
“In 2013, we wanted to expand our reach and donate more gifts, so we held an open house for our friends and family at our home. We gave them the option to donate a gift to our efforts, and so we were able put a smile on the faces of more than 40 kids. We just celebrated our second annual open house and we will donate 65 toys this year.
“We will continue to help bring joy to others for as long as we can. We hope we can continue to reach more and more children every year.”
(This is one part of a series of stories that shine a light on charitable community work performed by local Illinois associations and their members. To see all of the stories published so far, search for “charitable giving.”)