EAST LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Gabriel Hernandez is a former gang member who dubbed himself 'Cholo Claus.' Hernandez says he's giving back to the community he once took from. That's why he started the Cholo Claus Toy and Tamale giveaway in East Los Angeles.
"Back in the '90s I was doing real bad. I was out here robbing, doing a lot of bad things. Things I shouldn't be doing. I turned my life around and I decided to give back to the people I stole from," said Hernandez.
It began four years ago with Hernandez, his girlfriend and their tamale business on Thanksgiving. They had a tamale giveaway in the community. That's when others gave Hernandez monetary donations. He decided to buy toys with the money and had a toy giveaway a month later for Christmas. Hernandez has had the giveaway in the same parking lot on Whittier Boulevard since it started.
"This was actually my, how would you say, my stomping ground when I did my dirt," said Hernandez. "I took a bullet in [the] '90s. I flatlined twice on a table. I died twice on a table, and I am still here," said Hernandez.
"He's improved like I said. This is something really good for him that he does give back to the community. Because not everyone does that," said Viviana Vidal, a Cholo Claus supporter.
The toy giveaway almost didn't happen this year because Hernandez was short on toys and funds. But the community stepped in and started a Gofundme to help him. Hernandez said he turned his life around for the better because of his mother.
"That is what changed my whole life. She was dying on me. I made a promise to my Virgin Mary that I am going to change and ever since then I have been doing good," said Hernandez. "I am going to give you tears of joy. I want to make her proud of me."
Hernandez said he's already in the works of preparing the giveaway for next year.
"Cholo Claus is here to stay. As long as I can move and live, I'm gonna be doing it," said Hernandez.
¿Quieres leer este artículo en español? Haz clic aquí
Follow Eric on social media: