Community generosity fuels migrant toy drive

Gilroy's Migrant Family Toy Giveaway and Christmas Party is an annual event that benefits about 50 children who are among the most economically challenged children in our community.

For the past two years, Gilroyans Lionel and Marilyn have inspired me by their example of selfless giving and what Christmas truly means at a time of year when wages are at their lowest for field workers and the livelihood of migrant families is at its most precarious.
Folks like Lionel and Marilyn have called up out of the blue or have shown up on my doorstep to donate helping make Gilroy’s Migrant Family Toy Giveaway and Christmas Party possible. The annual event benefits about 50 children who are identified as among the most economically challenged children in our community, many of whom live with their families in one rented room, in a migrant camp on the edge of town or in a motel room shared by a whole family, wherever they can find affordable shelter.
It is the most heart-warming part of my Christmas season to be a part of collaborative events like this that bring a diversity of people together in a new way. These are some of the hardest-working families in Gilroy and they are educating their children and working to become good citizens of our community in every way. They help me to see life from a fresh point of view.
Univision Radio San Francisco is one of the sponsors this year; they first sponsored this effort 10 years ago by going into the poorest camp in town at the time, the Rodriguez Camp, where they donated many toys. The largest Hispanic radio company in the nation, they will be bringing food baskets and other donations to Wesley Hall on Church Street this year, donations that help these on-the-edge families get through the winter months.
Local Mexican markets help with rice, tamales and beans, which the families stretch to get through the winter months. Sometimes local bakeries donate Mexican sweetbreads, but what the kids have also come to love are homemade cookies, which many volunteers have offered to contribute this year. Many of the indigenous parents who fled starvation in remote villages in the mountains of Mexico have never tasted homemade cookies of western European origin, so it’s a cross-cultural sharing.
A crew of six young Hispanic men volunteered to serve at the event doing all the heavy lifting, toy set-up and clean-up afterwards. These emancipated youths answered the call for crews of workers that went out from our local fields during planting and harvest times; they are responsible, well-behaved young men who are working on getting their educations but receive no support from their families. Volunteering at this event is a way for them to prepare for life in this country and to learn how to better interact with a wide range of people in a collaborative way.
Last year, Julie Bradbury of the Magnolia Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star donated beautiful gold and cream-colored scarves for gifts to the moms at the event. Marilyn Mitri of the Gilroy Lions Club donated toys for the children. The Odd Fellows Gilroy Lodge #154 donated generously toward gift cards. Paula Pardue, a member of Rebekahs, the women’s branch of the International Order of Odd Fellows, donated several big bags of toys, as well as costume jewelry, which the teenage girls loved. Heather Brodersen, member of the Gilroy Assembly No. 125 of the International Order of the Rainbow for Girls, helped pass out gift cards to the parents to help with buying staples like rice and beans to get through the winter when there is little to no work in the fields.
To see the smiles of the children as they shyly received their gifts touched my heart more than any shopping trip to the mall or any of the Christmas tasks I’ll be rushing to accomplish. For many of these children, this will be the only toy they receive this Christmas.
In a model of how peace on earth should look, I find myself imagining Gilroy’s Toy Giveaway on an even grander scale: a world in which individual differences in belief, style, political views, socio-economic status, age and race no longer separate and divide us. Peace on earth.
I used to feel such grief at Christmas after my mom and dad both died close to the holidays. But now, to witness the heavenly result of unselfish giving shining through on the faces of these humble, hard-working people who ask for so little and who take nothing for granted–well, this has restored Christmas for me. Being a part of this has brought the joy of Christmas back again.
To donate to the Toy Giveaway, contact Kat Teraji at [email protected] or (408) 607-2442. New, unwrapped toys and new or clean, gently used jackets or hoodies are especially needed.

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