SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY, Calif. — With the holiday season in full swing, several local nonprofits are telling ABC10 they're seeing fewer toy donations for giveaways, compared to previous years - and they're worried they won't be able to meet the need.
The Greater Sacramento Urban League (GSUL) is collecting toys through Wednesday for a giveaway on Saturday.
For GSUL President and CEO Dwayne Crenshaw, this toy drive is personal.
"I remember when I was 11, and I remember the exact year because it was the one Christmas we had no gifts. My father lost his job that summer. We weren’t recovered, and we had nothing under the Christmas tree," Crenshaw said. "And there are a lot of families who are going through that with COVID, with layoffs, with – obviously – the inflation, the housing costs are through the roof.”
GSUL is looking especially for toys for kids 7 and older, through teens. Through Wednesday, they're collecting donations at the Urban League’s Oak Park (2331 Alhambra Blvd.) and Del Paso Heights (3725 Marysville Blvd.) locations, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. People can also donate money online. Crenshaw said any money donated through Wednesday will be put toward buying gifts.
"Last year, we served about 200 families – primarily here in the Oak Park area, but we know there’s a greater need this year," Crenshaw said. "Where our headquarters are in Del Paso Heights, there’s a lot of families who have been reaching out, so we hope to double the number of gifts so we can expand the reach here in Oak Park, Del Paso Heights, and maybe even other families throughout the region who come to our attention.”
Mims Corner is an organization started by husband and wife duo Anthony and Penny Mims.
“We are a nonprofit,” said Mims. “We serve Stockton, Lodi, San Joaquin County. We do homeless feeding twice a month. We go out on the first and the third Sunday at 3 p.m., we feed them dinner cooked by a chef. We give them toiletries, we give them blankets, all of the daily necessities that's needed... We're getting ready for our annual toy bike and food giveaway.”
Penny reached out to ABC10 asking for the community's help in making sure kids have a gift to unwrap this holiday season.
Penny did say they received help from the San Joaquin County Toys for Tots, but more donations are still needed.
“Normally we would get toys from Toys for Tots to help with the event. This year it was so critical. Toys for Tots did not get the donations that they normally get, so a lot of the nonprofits did not get funded with toys this year, although we were funded," said Penny. "So I'm in the mode now of trying to get toys to field our event on the 17th.”
Mims says the nonprofit has gotten about 210 bikes — 10 of which will be given to a local police department — but say they are in the need of toys.
“It is a mandatory community call out. Please donate toys, ages three to 12. We need baby dolls, we need balls, there was no footballs, there was no basketballs, I mean, just the daily toys that the kids are used to playing with,” said Mims. “We have the bikes totally covered, we just need the toys to be able to fulfill the kids' needs.”
ABC10 spoke with Toys for Tots Coordinator SSgt. Jonathan Lozada who says so far they’ve received close to 20,000 toys, but they are still seeing a decrease, specifically when it comes to bike donations.
“It's hard times. It's hard for real people to come out, show support, buy a bike being like $100,” said Lozada.
He also points they're seeing a decrease in donations when it comes to well-known events, like those at Walmart.
“I've noticed there's been a decrease, especially the Walmart events that we do,” he said. “We usually come at least 500 to 1,000 toys strong. The first couple of Walmart events, you can maybe 200 to 300 toys. So it's been rough, but we're slowly getting by and making sure we can do as much as we can and try to deliver as much as we can.”
Lozada said each year Toys For Tots starts out fresh. The campaign starts Oct. 1 and runs through December. Families put in applications for toys and nonprofit organizations also put in applications to help their community.
By Thanksgiving, he says they start filling out orders for toys for families and nonprofits.
“I'm more focused on families. I want to make sure the families are taken care of, because at the end of the day, the families look to us, they've been coming to us,” said Lozada. “I want to make sure they (families) give them that feeling and say, ‘Hey, I got you guys…don't worry about it.’ I just want to make sure that families first and then the nonprofits help out where I couldn't reach a certain families.”
According to the San Joaquin County Toys for Tots website, last year over 5,000 toys were distributed, and close to 5,000 children were supported.
So, how can you help?
Lozada says those in the San Joaquin County area have until Dec. 15 to make any toy donations at drop-off locations.
Below are ways to help get involved:
Meanwhile, Penny with Mims Corner says there will be an event on Dec. 17 at the Greater Christ Temple at 8800 Thornton Rd. in Stockton. The event will start and 10 a.m. and run until supplies run out.
To learn more about Mims Corner, click here.