By Dianne Anderson
Folks won’t have to look far to make a big fashion statement this Christmas for San Bernardino families and their kids – all it takes is one more gift, big or small, another slightly used coat or pair or shoes, or one more person that cares.
Akoma Unity Center at Anne Shirrells Community Center is now calling on everyone to peek inside their own closets, and weed through those lightly worn designer coats, jeans, jackets and shoes for their annual Christmas giveaway.
Their donations can enjoy a second life.
Last year, the organization served about 250 children in need of toys, and clothing.
This year, Akoma operations manager Jennifer Xicara said the demand has definitely grown much more.
“We’re expecting to serve 1,500 kids this year,” she said. “It’s exciting, it also shows how much Akoma has grown, and built relationships with corporate sponsors and community donors to help us reach our goals.”
The organization is asking parents that need a toy for their child or children to sign up now by registering online at their website at akomaunitycenter.org or call in to register at the center.
Others who want to participate can help kids in need with the huge toy giveaway by bringing a new toy for kids ages birth to 17 during business hours between now and the event so the center won’t have to turn any child away.
On Saturday, December 22, the toy and clothes giveaway runs from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Hundreds of families are aware of this event, and rely on local help to pull the holidays off for the kids.
Xicara said their sponsors have really stepped up to help this year. The Fire Department Spark of Love program will provide a huge amount of toys. The Iotas Fraternity from Cal State University, San Bernardino is also donating lots of time and talent.
The Black Chamber of Commerce is hosting its toy drive Friday through their networking holiday party, as well as several other sponsors hosting similar events to reach out for donations of toys and clothes.
“We pretty much distribute everything we get. If we do have a lot of leftover items, we will donate them to another toy drive,” she said.
To get a gift, the community must be registered. Those that show up at the event, who haven’t registered at the time of distribution will be invited back to receive a gift after the registered families receive their gifts.
There is no minimum for the number of children per family that can receive a toy, but children must be present with the parent or guardian.
“Each child will walk away with a toy, a coat, a pair of shoes and clothes,” she said. “If there are any toys left over, toward the end, we try to give out as many as we can.”
The community can also help by taking up toys or clothes drives in their neighborhoods or workplace.
Almost everyone has something that someone else needs.
Longtime community volunteer Sonjanetha Scott said this is an important time of the year for the kids, and while some families on the Westside pull a good income, the need is still great in that area.
At the center, she distributes the toys, feeds the children, and assists in several other areas of programming.
She said that the center has been an all-around great resource for the community. Because the programming is close, and quality, she said her own five grandchildren and a nephew have benefited from the Akoma after-school program.
Scott, who is a community service director at 16th Street Seventh Day Adventist Church, knows where and how to scope out the toys in the community. She said they often work together to make sure the kids are good to go for the holidays.
Last year, the Akoma toy giveaway was very well received, she said. All the kids were able to bring home a gift.
“They had their toy giveaway first and we had a giveaway at our church, and we directed some to come over there. It’s all the Westside. We’re all partnering together to make sure these kids have a good Christmas,” she said.
For more information, call (909) 217-7956 or see www.akomaunitycenter.com.
This article originally appeared in Precinct Reporter Group News.