By Jill Cowan
5:16 PM PST, December 23, 2013
Few places go through laundry like Heritage House South in Costa Mesa.
It's one of two residential treatment homes for women and children in Orange County — the other one is Heritage House North in Anaheim — which means that even with assigned laundry days, the washer-dryer situation can quickly turn hectic.
"Especially when there's a lot of newborns, there are emergencies," said Lane Bemmer, who is a few months into her second stint at the house. "Kids get sick; they throw up everywhere."
So when firefighters responded to the house a few weeks ago because, as one paramedic put it, "someone got a little shock" from one of the facility's aging dryers, staff members said they knew exactly what to ask Santa for.
Saturday morning, "Santa" delivered — or at least the Costa Mesa Firefighters Assn.'s Santa Letters Program did.
With a $3,000 donation from Bloomingdale's, Santa Letters bought two new Maytag dryers for the house. They were dropped off this weekend.
Santa Letters founder Todd Palombo said that when the group does its annual round of donation deliveries to local families and nonprofits Monday, there will be more surprises for Heritage House.
"We like helping them out," he said Saturday, as a couple of firefighters helped move one of the dryers into its spot.
Teresa "TJ" Jones, intake coordinator for the house, which serves about 80 women and 50 children per year through its six-month programs, said holidays in particular bring out community support.
For many of the young children living at the facility with their mothers, she said, the holiday celebration at Heritage House represents the first time they've experienced a "good Christmas."
"Some kids have never seen Santa Claus," she said.
Roxanne Coronado, 24, said that after about a decade of using drugs and spending some time homeless, she hasn't had a real Christmas in years.
This year, she said, she's motivated to complete the Heritage House program and stay clean — for her, for her toddler, who lives with his grandmother, and for her 10-month-old son, who lives with her at the house.
And this year, Coronado said, she got the chance to decorate a home.
"I was like a kid in a candy store," she said. "We have a tree in here; we made little snowflakes out of paper."
Still, she said, little things — having a shower, a bed and access to clean clothes — make perhaps the biggest difference.
Bemmer, 36, who stood sorting food on "chore day," said having the extra dryers will help things run a bit more smoothly, which goes a long way as residents navigate tough transitions.
"It'll really help keep the peace around here," she said with a chuckle.
How To Help
To donate to Heritage House, call (949) 646-2271.