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Ventura Co. family gets home for the holidays

December 20, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Sandra Reyes, her husband and their four children will have a special family memory this Christmas.

As part of the Home for the Holidays program, they were chosen by United Way of Ventura County and the Courtyard by Marriott in Camarillo to stay at the hotel for the week for free.

Other businesses in the community are donating meals and movie tickets.

"I think the biggest part is them getting to relax and not having to worry about where the next meal is, where I'm going to sleep that night, for the next week, at least," said Mitchell Crespie, the Marriott general manager.

For Reyes and husband Jesus Jimenez, it also serves as a big great for their kids.

"This is kind of like a present to them too, so that kind of relieves us, because we don't have the pressure of, 'Oh, I want to give my kids the nicest things,'" Jimenez said. "That's what the pressure is nowadays, but they're happy."

Reyes is a Head Start teacher, but Jimenez recently lost his job. He's been spending time at doctors' appointments with their special-needs son and coping with his father's cancer.

The home they live in is being foreclosed on. Social workers say it's a common story. Homeless families are up nine percent over the last year in Ventura County - many of them for the first time.

"What's important is that your family is healthy, taken care of," Reyes said. "Even though they're kids and they might not understand it, we're hoping that eventually when they get older, they'll understand."

It looks like their children are learning about the holiday spirit.

"Christmas is about joy, not expensive gifts. It's from the heart," said their son, Anthony Jimenez.

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