Caesar Santiago, owner of Santiago’s Mexican Restaurant, left, and Marcos Torres, right, are holding a toy drive located at Santiago’s at 1010 N. Jackson Street in Magnolia. Each unwrapped toy allows someone to register to win three prizes.

Without the generosity of others, many children in Magnolia will go without a Christmas present this year.

That’s why Marcos Torres and Cesar Santiago, who is the owner of Santiago’s Mexican Restaurant, have teamed up to hold a toy drive from now until December 22 at Santiago’s at 1010 N. Jackson Street in Magnolia.

Unwrapped toys of any value can be brought to Santiago’s and not only will the person or family giving the toy be helping a child, but they are also going to be registered to win one of three prizes that could help with their own Christmas. Each toy means one entry into the drawing and there is no limit to how many times someone can enter, if they provide a toy each time they register, Torres said.

The first prize for the contest is a Nintendo Switch Mario Kart Racing

game, the second prize is a $150 Wal-Mart gift card, and the third prize is a $50 meal at Santiago’s.

Additionally, through Saturday, people who donate a toy that displays at least a $10 value will receive a free margarita at Santiago’s. Of course, they must be 21 and up and have proper identification, Santiago said.

Both Torres, a native of San Antonio, and Santiago, a native of Tehuacana, Puebla, which is near Mexico City, are the sons of single mothers who struggled to provide their children with everything they needed.

Santiago, who got his visa and came to Magnolia in 2017 and opened the restaurant, said he remembers feeling that he wished he had more as a child, but at the same time admiring his mother, Concepcion Santiago, for helping so many people with what resources she did have.

“She gave us toys that made us happy, but they weren’t as high class as the toys we wanted,” he said. “It was tough to see the other kids with nicer clothes, shoes and stuff.”

Torres said he and his five siblings never had enough to eat, but

throughout school he was too afraid to tell anyone what was wrong in fear of being separated from his family. He remembers getting $5 shoes from a flea market and being proud to wear them, because they lasted at least for a little while.

“They lasted for a week, so I wore them for a week,” he said.

He remembers his mother, Rosa Maria Rodriguez, and how sometimes she made too many sacrifices and offered friends and family a place to live in their three-bedroom home. There were times when 16 people would live there, he said.

When Torres was a young child, Christmas could be a very sad time, but his spirits were lifted by a man who called himself Blue Santa who would ride around the neighborhoods, giving age appropriate toys to boys and girls he knew might not be getting anything for Christmas otherwise.

Although Torres will not dress up on December 23, when he delivers toys to needy neighborhoods in Magnolia, he will remember his past and the Blue Santa, and how grateful he was to that man for caring about those that needed shown love at Christmas.

And he knows his mother, who passed away in 2005, would be proud of him for passing on the love he was shown during his childhood.

When Torres is not busy with his two businesses or helping with his

father’s businesses out of town, he is a substitute teacher at Central and East Side elementary schools.

“I remember the way the children who didn’t have money for the book fair’s face lit up with a smile when I bought them a book,” he said. “There is a difference in the kids. Not everyone has nice clothes and nice shoes.”

Torres and Santiago agree that the City of Magnolia is supportive of the

Magnolia Panthers teams, but their support for the community goes well beyond that.

“I think Magnolia is a small town with a big heart,” Santiago said.

The drive is called the Torres/McBride Toy Drive and honors Torres’ children he had after marrying his wife, Sydnee Torres, as well as the McBride children she had from her first marriage. The couple have a total of seven children. The children include, Brayle McBride, 11, Dylan Torres, 10, Delilah Torres, 8, Rosa Torres, 6, Baylor McBride, 5, John Torres, 2, and Mateo Torres, 11 months.

Santiago said he doesn’t yet have children, but he wants to one day and he plans to provide for them with things he did not have but said they will be taught a good work ethic.

He said he has learned a lot from his mother about helping others and says she continues to help collect clothing to take to Mexico to give to people who have very little.

For more information about the toy drive, call Torres at (225) 573-2706 and those who would like to mail or drop off a toy at his home can do so at 2610 Regency in Magnolia.

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