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Annual Toys For Tots Effort Again A Success
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Santa Claus greeted families as they drove through and picked up their bag of toys this past Saturday. VIRGINIA STILL/THE NEWS

Families picked up their goods at Cardozo Middle School Auditorium just in time for the Christmas holiday. The Marine Corps Toys for Tots in collaboration with Central Valley Community Resources (CVCR) and Casa del Rio held their toy distribution this past Saturday. The toys and bikes were collected through their campaign that started at the end of November.

Although the day was gray and the cold air was swirling the volunteers were eager to help the families and make sure they got their loot. Santa Claus was on hand to spread Christmas cheer, waving to the kids, saying hello, and even delivering items to families as they rolled through the Dec. 18 event.

The distribution was scheduled to start at 1 p.m. but there were cars lined up in front of the auditorium with families ready to pick up their toys before noon. There were about 18 volunteers and 180 families served with 499 kids up to 12 years old that will receive a gift this Christmas. The new system that was set in place due to COVID last year continued this year with a drive-up style delivery.

“Donations seemed to be a bit lower in the community,” stated CVCR CEO Darlene Barber-Martinez. “The need was more this year; 499 was the highest number of registered students we have had in the several years we have been sponsoring this event.”

There were a few 13-year-old and above students that were sponsored by staff at Riverbank Unified School District.

Inside the auditorium the volunteers had some pizza and treats to keep them fueled up and warm for the few hours of distribution. The bags were organized by letters and as the family drove up and checked in the local Boy Scout troop would get the appropriate bag and load it up. The bags were filled with a variety of toys including dolls, games, plush animals, books, and much more. Some kids received bikes and scooters.

“Highlights were seeing the faces of the children light up when they saw Santa,” added Barber-Martinez. “People walked up or got out of their cars to take pictures with Santa.”

Toys for Tots provides toys to families that are less fortunate making it a mission to make sure all children have presents at Christmas.

“With people still being affected with the effects of COVID, we will continue this special event for as long as there is a need in our community,” said Barber-Martinez. “It is our way of ensuring our children have a brighter Christmas. This type of event helps the parents to give their families a Merry Christmas.”

She expressed appreciation to the Community of Riverbank for donating toys, the Marines for collecting donations, the volunteers from Casa del Rio, and CVCR Board Members and volunteers.

For over five years the Marine Corps Toys for Tots and CVCR along with a few other volunteers have collaborated to bring Christmas cheer to families in the Riverbank area.

The spirit of Christmas could be felt during the Toys for Tots distribution this past Saturday as volunteers weathered the cold with smiles. VIRGINIA STILL/THE NEWS