The long tradition of nonprofits and food pantries ending the year with a holiday distribution is carrying on this month.
These distributions come at a time when local food bank leaders have warned that the need for food in Orange County remains high almost three years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
In 2020, food banks, food pantries and nonprofits stepped up to address the elevated need for food caused by the pandemic with some also hosting toy drives at the end of the year to ensure children across the county would have a Christmas gift to play with.
In 2021, nonprofits across the county offered OC residents various opportunities to give back during the holiday season.
2022 will be no different, with toy and food drives happening in Anaheim and Santa Ana this weekend.
This year, the Power of One Foundation is partnering up with the City of Santa Ana and their month-long event – the Winter Village – in which they host an outdoor ice-skating rink, food trucks and other activities from Dec. 8 – Jan. 8.
On Saturday, the nonprofit will host a Winter Wonderland toy giveaway at the Winter Village from 6 p.m. – 10 p.m. for families who registered in advance.
For Andre Roberson, executive director of the nonprofit, the event is about more than just giving out toys, but rather providing people with a greater gift.
“It’s about community,” he said in a Monday phone interview, adding that providing a toy to a child who may not have expected one this year can provide hope and happiness to many families as they head into the next year.
“It’s a time to be there for one another.”
Last year, their goal for their Winter Wonderland event was to provide toys for 1,300 kids.
They ended up handing toys to 2,000 kids.
“This year we’re shooting for 2,000 and hopefully we can go to 2,300 to 2,500,” Roberson said.
Power of One has been collecting toys all year long for their distribution with help from IKEA and the organization will be collecting toys all the way up to the event.
To donate to the foundation and learn more about the toy drive, click here.
Roberson said the toy drive has been an annual tradition for the foundation for the last 12 years and in the past three years has grown in scale.
This year, they will also be sponsoring ice skating sessions as well and rather than a drive through experience like in recent years, the 2022 Winter Wonderland will be held in person.
The event will also feature a special guest appearance from actor Danny Trejo who will be accompanied by musicians including some from his own record label.
“It’s really a day of community coming together and blessing those kids that are less fortunate that would not have toys on Christmas and just seeing the smiles on their faces,” Roberson said.
Roberson and his foundation have fed over 2 million people in 2020 and over 819,000 people in 2021, according to their website.
In Anaheim, Families Together of Orange County will host their 18th annual Christmas Together Toy Giveaway for pre-registered families at the convention center from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
The event grew from giving away 6,000 toys in 2020 to a 20,000 toy give away in 2021.
The organization plans to give away 20,000 toys this year again along with Christmas hams and a Christmas dinner to attendees.
Families Together was also critical in vaccinating many OC residents against COVID in the early days of inoculations. At one point last year, the small nonprofit health clinic was one of the top distributors of the COVID vaccine in the county.
The event will also include a visit from Santa Claus.
“Last year, our Christmas Together event saw exponential growth, and we are honored to be able to give back to the community on such a large scale again,” said Alexander Rossel, the organization’s CEO, in a press release.
“Our dedication to the community is what drives us to keep improving, and we are making sure that this year’s Christmas Together event is the best one yet.”
People can donate to Families Together at the organization’s website.
On Saturday the Seva Collective – which started out as the Sikh Center of Orange County Food Pantry and has been on the ground for the past two and a half years feeding millions of people – will also host a holiday distribution.
From 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Villa Fundamental School, the nonprofit will host a free drive-thru food pantry and each family will get a holiday gift bag that includes a toy, clothes, a blanket, books and balls.
No registration is necessary – according to Bandana Singh, the organization’s cofounder.
“It’s important to share with others if you’re able to and if you can bring a little bit of joy to somebody’s life or to somebody’s day, that would be ideal,” she said in a Monday interview.
“We’re all in this together. People are going through different things and right now with everything going on, whatever we can do we should.”
Singh expects over 500 families at this week’s giveaway which will be the last food distribution of the year.
People looking to donate to the organization can do so at their website.
Also on Saturday, the United Across Borders Foundation will host a posada 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Centennial Park in Santa Ana.
Erika Robles, the nonprofit’s president and founder, said a posada is a Christmas gathering and will feature cultural dancing, a Santa Claus as well as a food and toy giveaway. It will be the organization’s last event of the year.
“We want families to go home happy after all that happened with COVID,” Robles said in a Monday phone interview.
“For me, it’s really important that we all stay together. And it doesn’t matter what color you are or what nationality you are. In the end, we all celebrate one thing – we all celebrate Christmas. We want all the people and all the kids playing together and celebrating together so we can have better days.”
Robles said they expect 1,500 kids at the posada and that no registration is necessary. Gifts will be given away on a first come first serve basis.
People looking to donate to the foundation can do so at their website.
Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.
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