Perla was smiling as she left NUSD’s Toy Drive this evening with holiday food for her family and gifts for her two kids. “I don’t have a job right now, so I’m kind of low on money,” she said, adding that the goods she received tonight will help “a lot.”
“When you’re trying to pay bills and it’s Christmas, kids don’t understand the true meaning yet, so they think about presents,” said Janice, mother of four kids. “I work hard but sometimes I don’t have money for everything.” The Toy Drive filled that gap for her this year. “Thank you!” she said.
Hundreds of local children, ages 18 and under, were able to choose a toy or gift from well more than 1,000, perhaps closer to 2,000, that were lined up in a Natomas High School classroom. Joey’s Food Locker distributed hams, turkeys, and bags of groceries. Natomas High teacher Kim Taxara helped gather 100 new or gently used coats that also were offered to families in need.
Teacher Joel Schwieger, who teaches adult Special Education studenst at Natomas High and plays a key role in organizing the annual Toy Drive, said tonight’s event was by far the largest in the event’s three-year history. “If feels phenomenal,” he said. “It’s getting bigger and bigger and bigger.”
Kids entered the toy display a few at a time tonight, giving them a few minutes and a little privacy to sort through gifts ranging from a basketball to dominoes, board games, stuffed animals, Hot Wheels cars, picture books – including “Moana” – and many any other new and unwrapped options, including educational kits, such as one to build a “volcano” and another to learn about the human body.
The Toy Drive was a true community effort, with families and businesses contributing gifts, and NUSD staff and students distributing them.
Ronzi, 18, graduated from Natomas High School last year but returned as a volunteer for the Toy Drive. Why? “I think it’s really fun, seeing all the faces and stuff, seeing what kids pick out,” she said. “It feels good to see other people who need (help), get it.”
Larry, a 16-year-old junior at Natomas High, said he volunteered because “I’ll feel way better just knowing I helped out.”
Trustee Lisa Kaplan said there are many Natomas families in need this holiday season, and she enjoys giving back to the community by assisting the Toy Drive. “Every child deserves to have a joyous holiday season,” she said, adding, “There’s no other place I’d want to be.”
Schwieger said he gets more joy out of the Toy Drive distribution than anybody does.” This is my Christmas,” he said, smiling.
Thank you, Natomas, for making this Toy Drive possible.