Generous members of the Toro community turned out for a pair of on-campus toy drives during the first weeks of December. The drives were sponsored by CSUDH’s Center for Service Learning, Internships and Civic Engagement (SLICE) and its Jumpstart program; and the CSUDH Police Department (DHPD). As a result, hundreds of children from underserved communities received holiday gifts.
The SLICE/Jumpstart “Totes for Tots” drive was in its fifth year, said SLICE coordinator Miami Gatpandan. “We work with preschools in Compton and recognized that this was a real need for many of the children there. We’ve partnered with a lot of departments over the years, including the Office of External Relations, who provided assistance this time.”
“Our work is not just about volunteering and helping kids with their academic needs, but really meeting the community’s needs,” added Gatpandan. “Often, it’s just about what will bring joy. What will bring that sense of being one community? We’re sharing gifts and treasures with one another, but not in the sense of ‘The community needs something and so CSUDH will give it to them.’ It’s just a community coming together and sharing our resources.”
During the five years the program has been up and running, the Toro community has generously stepped up with donations–even in 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Our partners in Compton said that the kids still wanted the event to happen,” said Natalie Gomez, a Jumpstart worker who participated in her first toy drive while still a student intern at SLICE. “So, we didn’t take a break. We felt like it was even more necessary, in a way, after everything that the kids had gone through.”
“We left drop boxes outside our center, and Dominguez Hills showed up!” she recalled of last year’s drive, while the campus was primarily remote. “People were also shipping toys here if they couldn’t come in person. In the end, we had a great event for the kids after all. There were less of them, but the kids who were there were really happy and appreciative!”
This year, SLICE and Jumpstart received over 200 donated toys, including many donated by the student group Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlán (MEChA), who held their own mini-toy drive in support of the effort. “Many of our Mechistas come from minority, low-income communities that did not have the opportunity to receive holiday gifts from their families,” said the group’s president, Areli Zagal Barrera.
“Instead, they would receive gifts from local parks or community donors which would bring them joy and hope. Now that we are college students, we find the value of community service, kindness, and planting a seed of aspiring to higher education essential to uplifting our community.”
The collected toys were distributed at an event for local children at the Compton YWCA. Every child in attendance got to pick a toy and get their picture taken with Santa, while volunteers were on hand to socialize with the kids and help them choose presents.
The remaining toys will be handed out to children at smaller giveaways at several Compton preschools that Jumpstart partners with. “This has been our most successful drive yet,” said Gatpandan.
Meanwhile, DHPD was conducting their own “Toys for Tots” drive in partnership with Carson’s Chick-Fil-A restaurants. Toro student Priscilla Arriaga, who works at the location, approached the police department with the idea to work together on a toy drive. The DHPD readily agreed to host a pair of drop-off events in a campus parking lot–while Chick-Fil-A provided vouchers for free sandwiches to thank everyone who donated.
Velez said the DHPD typically partners with a variety of community groups during the holiday season, helping out everyone from the City of Carson to local hospitals. The opportunity to team up with Chick-Fil-A this year was one they didn’t want to pass up.
“Over the course of the two events, we filled two large SUVs with toys,” said Dominguez Hills Police Chief Carlos Velez. The collected toys will be shipped to the United States Marines’ Toys for Tots Foundation, who will oversee their distribution to children in the local community.