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Pastor apologizes after turning away Spanish speaking families at toy giveaway

TULSA, Okla. – An Oklahoma organization says it made a mistake when it turned away families in need because they didn’t speak English.

Megan Aviles tells KJRH that she was in line to register for the toy giveaway at Loaves and Fishes Ministry when she noticed several Hispanic women being denied access to the registration because they didn’t speak English.

“I went forward to try and assist and was like, ‘Look, I can translate for these women. I’m bilingual,” Aviles said.

However, the executive director of the organization admits that he didn’t allow her or anyone else to translate for the families.

“The reason I didn’t use one of our guests or a family member or even a child is my experience with interpreters is they don’t necessarily interpret what I say,” Al Poncel, a pastor, said.

Poncel says this is the first time there has been a language barrier during the registration event, and he would have felt more comfortable with an interpreter he knows. However, he admits that he likely made a mistake by turning away the families.

“I didn’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. I didn’t want to offend anybody. I want to help as many people as I can,” he says.

As a result, he says he is already making plans for future events.

“The 18th and 19th is (sic) going to be big days of our Christmas outreach. I’m going to make sure I have an interpreter here to be able to properly interpret, have the proper forms because I’m required by the food bank of USDA to fill out specific forms,” said Poncel.