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Toys For Tots Distribution
Central Valley Community Resources along with several volunteers gathered to brighten the holidays for families in Riverbank at the Toys for Tots distribution this past Saturday. VIRGINIA STILL/THE NEWS

During this holiday season there are several people that have needs and to make sure that children in Riverbank receive toys at Christmas, several groups combine forces. The Central Valley Community Resources (CVCR) in collaboration with the Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program hosted a recent toy distribution, along with assistance from the Riverbank Unified School District, C.A.S.A. del Rio FRC, Boy Scouts Troop #1100, Living Grace Church, Community Praise Tabernacle, Valley Improvement Projects and volunteers within the community. The Toys for Tots distribution was held on Saturday at the Cardozo Middle School Cafeteria.

Families trickled in throughout the afternoon picking up their bag of toys, selecting an additional item at the stocking stuffer table, and posing for a photo with Santa and Mrs. Claus.

Toys for children from birth up to age 12 were donated from Nov. 14 until Dec. 14 with boxes at several RUSD schools, C.A.S.A. del Rio, Riverbank Language Academy, RUSD district office, TSW Financial, City Hall, New Life Community Church, and the Riverbank Library. There were 148 families and 365 kids that received toys for Christmas. All families must be Riverbank residents.

Volunteer Bianca Lopez has been participating in the event for the past four years and expressed that they have been more organized this year.

“This year I did a toy drive with the After School Program in our school at California Avenue and the kids filled up a box,” said Lopez. “They did take some extra flyers and a few of the kids walked through the neighborhood and asked if anybody wanted to give a donation of new toys.”

First time Toys for Tots participants Leticia, Maggie, and Victoria think it is a really nice program for kids and are grateful that they have the opportunity to receive toys for the their children. All three ladies have young children and they agreed that it shows how much Riverbank cares for the kids. They were also pleased with the extras that they were given with an additional toy for each child and a bag of candy.

CVCR CEO Darlene Barber Martinez got involved with the Marines and the Toys for Tots program after she saw a need and has been continuing with the toy giveaway for the past four years.

“There used to be a similar program here at one time and then we lost that community member that used to organize it,” said Martinez. “So for two years we didn’t have anything like that. So I decided to step up and get a group of other organizations in the community involved and bring it back to Riverbank.”

With Christmas right around the corner the last push for toy donations happened last week and although the donations were less this year than in years past they still managed to guarantee a toy for over 300 kids.

“We get a lot of donations during our Christmas parade,” added Martinez. “Our toys go right back to our Riverbank residents and the donations come from a lot of the Riverbank area too. I think it is so much appreciated because there is such a huge need. Just to see some of these kids come in and get their toys and Santa and Mrs. Claus are a real big help to the whole event.”

Santa and Mrs. Claus handed out candy canes to the youngsters along with snapping pictures with them and several kids asked for Christmas presents like an American Girl Doll, a soccer ball, and an Apple computer.

“We always get good volunteers and they never let us down,” added Lopez. “We have high school volunteers, we have junior high volunteers doing community service hours, we have the boy scouts, and the non-profit organizations that collaborate together which is always a good thing and I just want to say thank you to those who have donated and hopefully next year we can get more donations. We look forward to doing a bigger event for a toy drive.”