Community members and local service organizations are partnering to collect and donate holiday gifts to more than 900 students in Pleasanton Unified School District during the Christmas Toy Drive, which runs through Dec. 11.
An annual collaborative effort among Pleasanton residents and groups including Valley Community Church and Blue Oaks Church, the toy drive encourages the public to sponsor a family online or purchase items requested by the families -- including gift cards, toys, board games, arts supplies, or clothing -- and drop them off at one of three designated locations.
In previous years, toy drive recipients nibbled on cookies and enjoyed hot cocoa while selecting their gifts in person at an event hosted by local corporation Workday. But with the COVID-19 pandemic putting a stop to such gatherings for now, the toy drive has gone online this holiday season, volunteer Jill Lorentz told the Weekly.
"The community needs to know the needs in the community are very real, you probably just don't see them," Lorentz said. "People are not being able to pay their rents, not being able to eat, not being able to pay utilities. It's not something a lot of people know."
Blue Oaks Church Pastor Joe Hartley said, "Working with Pleasanton Unified School District, there are already nearly 200 families available for sponsorship now. We hope to serve Pleasanton this year and expand to the entire Tri-Valley in 2021."
Many of the families have members that are service workers, gardeners and workers in other industries severely affected by the pandemic and "probably won't soon recover because of the COVID restrictions," according to Lorentz.
"There's a lot of generous people in Pleasanton that are always up to rise to the occasion of giving, but the need is even greater than any year in the past because of COVID," she added. "I just encourage people to get their neighbors involved, get their extended family involved ... do something positive for this Christmas season."
Though not directly participating in the toy drive event, local nonprofit organization CityServe of Tri-Valley is acting as a referral source for families interested in being sponsored.
Residents can sponsor a family either online or by dropping off requested gifts by Dec. 11 at one of three locations in Pleasanton: Blue Oaks Church (7139 Koll Center Pkwy.), Valley Community Church (4455 Del Valle Pkwy.) or at Inklings (530 Main St).
Curbside pickup will take place at Blue Oaks Church the week before Christmas. Volunteers are needed for shopping, managing the gift warehouse, and curbside pickup.
Several other community organizations are also holding gift-giving programs of their own this year.
The Livermore Police Department's Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association (CPAAA) and the Livermore Police Department are sponsoring this year's Giving Tree program.
"While we are unable to host this event in the same format as years past, we are proud to announce that the Annual Giving Tree continues in 2020," said LPD Officer Taylor Burruss.
With the help of Horizons Family Counseling, LVJUSD, Senior Support Program of the Tri-Valley and the LPD patrol division, recipients in need of assistance have been identified including children, families and seniors.
Like in years past, the Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department is doing Toys for Tots -- partnering with the United States Marine Corps for the event -- "but in a contactless manner," deputy chief Joe Testa said.
Toys may be dropped between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. at the Toys For Tots boxes in front of all 10 fire stations, without notifying the station's crew. Firefighters will take the toys inside periodically.
Testa said, "We are sorry that we can't visit with those who donate this year, however we must prioritize keeping our community and first responders safe."
For more information about the Christmas Toy Drive, visit toys.blueoakschurch.org. Donations for the Giving Tree may be made at signup.com/go/LivermoreGivingTree.