Community Christmas on Hymer

Between bites of his hot dog, Bill Miller, 79, told me that this area west of Rock Boulevard used to be a well-to-do rural neighborhood. Bill’s wife, Neva, grew up on Hymer Avenue. She remembers when Rock was a dirt road, when the concrete plant was a cattle yard, and when Hymer Storage was part of a farm.

“There were a lot of families then, and we fished in the ditch in the summer and skated it in the winter,” Neva said. “We even trapped muskrats one year.”

Dozens of families still call Hymer home. Saturday afternoon, most of them gathered in the Northern Nevada Labor Hall for a neighborhood Christmas party organized by, as one mom put it, “that woman who runs the storage.”

“That woman” is Angela Campbell, who lives and works at Hymer Storage. In past years, she’s done glove drives and cookie drives for area homeless agencies.

This year, Campbell focused on the two-block area near her home. She called businesses for donations, booked a Santa and a fire truck, rounded up volunteers, food and balloons and lined up gifts from K-Mart for 47 kids. Families arriving at the party were welcomed by K-Mart worker Lisa Smith. After signing in, kids “shopped” for school supplies, toothbrushes, socks and underwear.

When I arrived, Campbell was running the event with a neighbor baby on her hip, 8-month-old Destini.

Destini’s face was round and wet. She grabbed for my pen.

“So Destini, what does this event mean to you?” I asked.

“Rah-ah!” she commented, drooling on my notebook.

All of the families who registered for the event attended. Campbell and a translator welcomed everyone.

“I know you’re probably already eating, but I’m going to say grace!” Campbell said, and the room grew quiet. “Thank you, Lord, for bringing these families together and thank you for the businesses that contributed. … Bless this neighborhood and help us remember why we celebrate Christmas.”

Campbell’s goal is to build a sense of community on Hymer and create a connection between residents and area businesses. She hopes to hold the party annually, with the continued support of businesses like Baldini’s Sports Casino.

The neighborhood is zoned “residential/industrial.” It’s close enough to the airport that jets regularly thunder overhead. You get used to it, I’m told. One single mom said her rent stays low. Families come and go. Residents rarely get to know neighbors.

“This party is nice,” Neva Miller said, as she colored with her grandson Cody, “because I really don’t know anyone.”

Santa arrived, and each child received a large bag stuffed with wrapped gifts.

“Take them home to unwrap them!” said Campbell, grinning.

The event concluded with a raffle—giant stuffed bears and refurbished bicycles.

The first bike winner was Daniel Pineda, 6, a first-grader at Corbett Elementary. Daniel beamed as he wheeled across the room. Miguel Razo, 5, offered to teach him to ride.

“My dad’s going to teach me,” Daniel said. Miguel looked sad. But a minute later, he also won a bike.

“I’m going to go speeding fast,” he warned.

“If you push this, you go faster,” Daniel said, squeezing the brakes.

“No, you stop,” Miguel argued.

“Oh, you stop,” Daniel repeated. He looked up. “When we get bigger, we’re going to be best friends.”

Eight-year-old John Charles carted off his gifts, hoping for Yu-gi-oh! cards. He questioned the veracity of Santa.

“You could see his beard move up his face,” John observed.

“This is so cool,” said his mom, Mary Charles, 36. She looked around the room, appreciating the cultural diversity of her neighbors. “Angela did such a good job.”

“All right, everyone!” Campbell shouted. “Merry Christmas! Feliz Navidad! And take everything home with you!”