MONTEBELLO – If it wasn’t for the efforts of the Montebello Police Department, Raquel Sanchez’s four children would have had a sparse Christmas this year. The department’s annual Holiday Basket Program on Thursday donated toys to 35 underprivileged families, handing the gifts out at a special dinner provided by the Montebello Elks Lodge. The Montebello Unified School District refers the families, who include some seniors, single parents and whole families. Having just started a job at Kmart, the 32-year-old Sanchez said she welcomed the chance to take her kids to the free special dinner. After receiving the invitation, Sanchez said her 7-year-old son wrote a thank you note to the Montebello Police Department. “It’s nice because not everybody gets to be invited,” Sanchez said. “I’m so happy to take my kids somewhere special, and I just really appreciate the opportunity. I’m backed up on my bills and it’s so nice to give something extra to my kids. I wouldn’t be able to give them much.” Toys and monetary donations were collected at last week’s “Lunch With The Chief” event, where for a minimum $10 contribution or a new unwrapped toy, participants could attend a lunch with police Chief Garry Couso-Vasquez. After losing her husband four year ago, 53-year-old Pam Ledezma welcomed the chance to mingle at Thursday’s dinner. With no car, she had to take a bus to the Elks Lodge. “It feels really good,” Ledezma said. “It’s hard to explain. I’ve lived in Montebello for 20 years and my husband was a volunteer at the Police Department, but he was disabled and we had some hard times. This dinner will bring up my spirits.” [email protected] (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3029 AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORERose Parade grand marshal Rita Moreno talks New Year’s Day outfit and ‘West Side Story’ remake160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!