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Spirit Of Giving Seen At Toy Drive, Car Show
toy drive
There were several cars, encompassing a wide variety of makes and models, on display at the car show in the Save Mart parking lot. - photo by VIRGINIA STILL

There were several people mingling around Save Mart in the Crossroads Shopping Center this past Saturday. They were not just purchasing groceries and preparing for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday; some were perusing the car show and donating toys for the Toys for Tots campaign.

The Car Show and Toy Drive was organized by Central Valley Community Resources (CVCR), Casa del Rio, Valley Improvement Projects and the Marine Corps Reserve of Stanislaus County.

“The event was excellent all the way around,” said Armando Nuñez, Program/Grant Manager, Riverbank USD/Casa del Rio. “As a first-time committee member, it was amazing for me to see all the behind-the-scenes support from all the community partners, a special thanks to the Toys for Tots planning committee members and Save Mart for allowing us to use their parking lot space. These kinds of events are successful due to all of the planning and support that happens beforehand, and it is very apparent to me that we had the right folks working together to make this happen.”

CVCR CEO Darlene Barber-Martinez has taken the lead in organizing the toy drive for many years and new this year they added a car show in the Save Mart parking lot. There were over 50 cars on display on Saturday, Nov. 19 in a variety of colors, makes, models, and years.

“The event was exciting, fun, and exceeded our expectations,” said Martinez. “It was not a challenge, just teamwork to get everything done. Some cars did not register but came with toys.”

Nuñez said, “I must acknowledge that we had a strong participation of cars and trucks for the car show that surpassed our expectations. The car show was new to the event this year and we will be bringing it back again next year.”

The clear sunny skies made it perfect weather for an outdoor event. Santa Claus noted that he was a bit warm as he was walking around the car show taking pictures with attendees. There were locals and several people from the surrounding area that either had a car in the show or made donations.

“While many families were coming back after doing their weekend shopping, others stopped by the event to buy food (a hot dog or hamburger) and others were buying raffle tickets for the raffle prizes – all of that helps us fundraise for toys,” remarked Nuñez. “We also saw other car enthusiasts drive by and hand the volunteers toys and others were giving cash donations as well. It is always nice to see everyone pitching in to make the holidays a little more joyful for others. It was a feel-good day, and the weather was very pleasant for a day out.”

The boxes to collect toys were placed in front of the store and in the middle of the parking lot where they had a couple pop up tents. They held a couple raffles and an awards ceremony for the top three most popular cars that guests voted on. Armando Felix got a trophy for his 1964 Mustang, Patricia received a trophy for a 1962 T-Bird, and Mike and Roberta Aldrete won a trophy for the 1950 Ford Custom.

They received over 200 toys that will be distributed to families on Saturday, Dec. 17. They will also purchase toys with the funds raised from the hamburger and hot dog meals served up that day as well as monetary donations that were given.

“I enjoy giving joy year around, but Christmas is a special time of the year for us all,” stated Martinez. “Save Mart has been a great partner to work with. Robert, the store manager, was in the parking lot at 6:30 a.m. making sure the designated parking spaces were secured for the Car Show.”

Robert Alton has been the manager at Save Mart in Riverbank for the past five years and has been participating in the Toys for Tots campaign each year.

“Darlene visits me every year and asks for a location to do the Toys for Tots with the Marines and we are always happy to help her,” added Alton. “We had a lot of people here this year. The car show had a lot of people turn out over there and they stuck around all day. A lot of patrons came by and there were a lot of comments inside the store they noticed what was going on and felt the vibe. It was amazing.”

The store was very busy but Alton took a moment to peruse the car show and talk to the car owners. He shared that there is a lot of stress that goes with the event but there is also excitement.

Throughout the day the boxes were being filled up with an assortment of toys including stuffed animals, barbies, ninja turtles, hot wheels, remote control cars, slime kits, jewelry, books, and backpacks.

“I was not surprised but rather glad to see plenty of books, school supplies, and backpacks being dropped off as well,” stated Nuñez. “As a parent and educational administrator, we all know that children need these items to be successful in their schooling. Our biggest donor of the day brought just that; plenty of new books for the kids.”

They are still collecting toys for families in need until Dec. 15. Donation boxes can be found at the Riverbank Unified School District office, Glam Salon, Pizza Plus, Clayton Farmers Insurance, City Hall North Building, Riverbank Industrial Complex, Save Mart-Riverbank, Self-Help Federal Credit Union, F & M Bank, Los Originals Barber Shop, Perez Farmers Insurance, Riverbank Police Services, and Modesto Cannabis.

Martinez expressed appreciation to all the people that participated and volunteered.

She said, “Our volunteers were from Riverbank High School. They held signs letting the public know we had food for sale and that we were having a toy drive and car show.”

“I’d like to thank everyone that came out and joined us and helped make this toy drive a successful event,” expressed Nuñez. “On behalf of the planning committee, we would like to wish everyone a happy holiday season.”