CHEYENNE — His name is Angel Maldonado, and the name might say it all.
“I’ve heard people say this is a tough year,” a friend of Maldonado’s named Dominic posted to local social media. “Some have said Christmas will have to wait a few months, others have said it may not happen. And there are some folks who just aren’t cool with that.”
Those folks include Maldonado who, with the help of friends, has been leading a charge to bring Christmas to all the families who may not have fit the usual criteria for programs that help others this time of year.
So, Maldonado and his friends gathered several hundred toys, as well as clothing items, and they gave them away at Maldonado’s business, The Presidential Barbershop at 219 W. Lincolnway in Cheyenne. At first, each family could take one new and one used item. Later as everyone had a turn, families could come and take additional items if they still had a need.
Maldonado didn’t ask anyone to prove how much they make or that they have a special need. He didn’t worry about whether someone might be double-dipping. Judgment didn’t get a seat at the table, either.
There was just a huge smile and a “Merry Christmas.”
“I feel like right now, we’re all going through hard times,” Maldonado told Cowboy State Daily on Saturday. “Everybody needs something. Like, if you’re rich or poor. Some people need attention, some people need love. Seriously, because the world is so crazy. You watch TV and everybody’s scared. You know, nobody believes in God. Nobody has faith.”
Gratitude And Love Are Endless Commodities
Maldonado has been active helping various charitable efforts this Christmas, and he’s not taking anything away from any of those. They were worthy, helped a lot of people, and he’s glad to have been a part of all of them.
But after the events were over, there were still a lot of unmet needs out there for local families. Some of his friends were also still getting calls.
The stories were so heart-wrenching and, at first, Maldonado felt tapped out. They’d done it all. They’d given it all. There was nothing left.
But gratitude and love are endless commodities, limited only by the size of one’s heart. So, just when Maldonado thought there was nothing left to give, he found there was, after all, something more.
The Big Clean-Out
He and his wife had been clearing out their basement to make way for a new entertainment center for their children, and the number of barely used toys they found was shocking.
“We came up with like six bags of toys,” Maldonado said. “So I was like, you know what, I’m not going to donate that to Good Will. I’m going to post it up in the shop and we’re going to give it out. And then we’re going to see if other people want to help donate.”
Turns out, people did. As word spread of the impromptu effort, an anonymous donor gave Maldonado $1,100 in cash. Maldonado took it to his local Walmart, where a representative offered him clearance prices, making that cash good for more than 200 more new toys.
“And then the whole community was coming out,” Maldonado said. “And I’m telling you this, they say the community is where the heart is. Well, a lot of people have hearts this year. People came in with monetary donations, brand new items and used items that still looked very good. We had tons of brand-new clothes, boots, jackets. I mean, it was amazing.”
People even brought in food in addition to toys and gift items, and they brought in something else that is without price. They brought their Christmas spirit.
“It was so touching,” Maldonado said. “It was a whole lot of people, and there’s were so many more people around the community that I’ve never met before or even knew.”
Getting To Know More Neighbors Than Ever
Maldonado is glad he didn’t worry about who needed what. He’s glad because of the community-building that informality made possible, and it’s something he hopes to repeat every Christmas from now on.
The giving barbershop will be an annual thing.
“I think when we say we’re doing events, it’s for everyone,” he said. “Get to know your community. Get to know who your neighbors are. You don’t have to be scared. When you show your strength in the community, you can grow. When I was growing up, we used to knock on people’s door for like eggs, and sugar, you know what I mean?”
That doesn’t happen a lot these days because so many people haven’t even taken the time to meet their neighbors, much less feel comfortable borrowing eggs and sugar.
Maldonado sees that as a kind of sickness in society. We aren’t caring for each other anymore, and that’s why loneliness is at an all-time high.
But, as Maldonado sees it, each and every person can be the antidote for that.
“If you move in, I’m going to knock on your door,” Maldonado said. “I’ve got kids. I want to know who you are, you know what I’m saying? In a nice way, like how are you doing, welcome to the neighborhood and so on. I think we’re missing a lot of that, and I think this type of happiness and joy brings people together to see that it still exists.”
Renée Jean can be reached at Renee@CowboyStateDaily.com.