CSUMB continues holiday gift project for community despite pandemic
By Sophia Huang McKenzie
Published Dec. 14, 2020
Just a few years after its founding in 1994, CSU Monterey Bay began a holiday tradition of partnering with non-profit organizations in the community and donating gifts to families in need. The coronavirus pandemic threatened to derail the beloved tradition this year, but the spirit of giving prevailed.
CSUMB will continue to bring joy and hope to less fortunate families this year through a no-contact version of its annual giving project, dubbed the 2020 Holiday Toy Drive. For the fourth year in a row, the drive will benefit the children of Door to Hope and MCSTART, Monterey County programs that help no-income and low-income children, teens and adults overcome the challenges of exposure to trauma, alcohol and drugs.
The programs created a Door to Hope Wish List with online retailer Amazon.com that allows donors to shop and purchase gifts through Friday, Dec. 18. The gifts will be sent to Door to Hope, and the program staff will deliver the gifts to the families.
“We have a very generous and caring community,” said Toni Uribe with CSUMB University Personnel, who coordinates the annual project. “I was disappointed at first thinking that we were not going to be able to sponsor [the drive] this year because of the contact it normally requires. So it was very exciting that we’ve been able to continue the tradition in this way,” Uribe said.
We are so grateful for CSUMB and all the staff for participating. I’m not sure they know how much it means to us. Without CSUMB, we could not do this for these families.”— Adriana Rocha, Door to Hope
Under normal circumstances, University Personnel collects the gifts by setting up a Giving Tree decorated with tags printed with gift requests. CSUMB employees pick up the tags and purchase the items, wrap them, and drop them off at the department’s office.
Uribe recalled one staff member and his wife who picked up multiple tags last year. They continued to stop by on a regular basis to see if any tags were left on the tree, so they could take more. The couple said, “All of our children are grown, but we enjoy shopping for children.“
Because of the coronavirus, CSUMB has limited campus operations to essential business activities only. Few people are allowed on site, which made the usual process unworkable.
Donors like Joan Weiner, program assistant in CSUMB’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, were heartened to hear about the alternative method.
She wrote to Uribe: “Thank you very much for giving us the opportunity to participate in a holiday toy drive. Picking out toys — and wrapping them — is something my husband and I look forward to each year. I was concerned that we wouldn't be able to do it this year. ... I'm delighted to see this very clever solution to the issues posed by the coronavirus.”
Adriana Rocha, development coordinator for Door to Hope, began working for the nonprofit last year. She remembers her surprise at the generosity of CSUMB employees.
“I couldn’t believe how many gifts were provided by CSUMB for each child! About three to four gifts per child, and these were not inexpensive gifts,” Rocha said. In the final tally, the CSUMB community provided enough gifts for 110 families.
“We are so grateful for CSUMB and all the staff for participating. I’m not sure they know how much it means to us. Without CSUMB, we could not do this for these families.”
Gifts requested range from basic care items for infants such as strollers and high chairs to developmental toys, games and books for children and teens.
Some of the items such as containers of slime may seem unusual, but “slime is actually really good for kids who have anxiety and stress,” Rocha said.
Uribe learned about Door to Hope in 2017 while looking for a new beneficiary for CSUMB’s holiday giving. She was impressed by “the amazing work” they do “to support families trying to make positive changes after serious challenges.”
A CSUMB staff member shared with Uribe that one of their loved ones found recovery through the program after years of struggle. The staff member, who wishes to remain anonymous, praised the program for their commitment to their clients and the children they help.
Uribe likely echoes many CSUMB employees when she said continuing the holiday giving project is important because it’s a special tradition that helps the community.
“There’s a lot of meaning in knowing you are helping someone,” she said. “Although we don’t know who these gifts are going to, we do know they’re going to make many children and their families very happy.”