Donations may have been lighter than in the past, but many still benefitted from the generosity of the community.
By Mary O’KEEFE
Santa, and his helpers, were very active this weekend distributing toys and helping families in need.
Early Saturday morning, the Early Rodders classic car club lent a hand to Santa, and the Los Angeles County Fire Dept., by collecting and delivering toys.
“We have been doing this toy drive for seven years,” said Dwight Sityar, Early Rodders member.
The original idea for the toy drive came from Early Rodders member Gary Evans.
“It was a way to give back,” Evans explained.
Over 100 classic car owners supported the toy drive, and this year kids from St. Andrew school in Pasadena also helped.
“My wife, Ms. Maria [Lucchesi] and Ms. Hoffman are student council advisors [at St. Andrew],” said Victor D. Lucchesi. Victor’s dad, Victor Sr., is a member of the Early Rodders.
The two teachers mentioned the toy drive to Principal Ken Foersch and the student council and they thought it would be a great idea to participate. The school generously donated enough toys to fill the trunk and backseat of a 1955 Chevy.
The Early Rodders gathered enough toys to load up two trucks in total. The drivers then caravanned from the UA Theaters in La Cañada to LACoFD Station 82 where firefighters, and fire Explorers Post 4, received the donations.
The toy drive benefits the Los Angeles County Fire Dept.’s Spark of Love which is in its 21st year. Over the years the drive, sponsored by ABC7 and Southern California Firefighters, has collected over seven million toys for children in need. Last year alone over 500,000 toys were collected in five counties.
The Early Rodders donations are badly needed this year because the Spark of Love donations have tapered off from past years, said Station 82 Capt. Adrian Murrieta.
“We take the toys downtown where there are being collected,” Murrieta said.
The firefighters were not only happy to see all the toys but were also excited about the parade of classic cars. The drivers took some time to show off their vehicles and share their stories of how they came to purchase, or in some cases inherit, the cars.
“I like this. It is car people doing good things for [their community] and kids,” said Early Rodders member Victor Nasol.
The Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station was also in the holiday spirit Saturday morning with its annual toy and food drive. This year, station personnel tried something different to connect the entire station with the community.
In the past, the sheriff volunteers would collect the donations, get the names of local families in need and then deliver toys and food to their homes. Many times the families wouldn’t be home and the sight of several deputy patrol units parked in a neighborhood was not exactly inconspicuous.
This year, though, families were invited to come by the station to pick out their toys, get bags of groceries and meet Santa.
The station’s lower lot on Briggs Avenue was transformed into Santa’s workshop. Holiday music and Mrs. Claus greeted the families as they entered the parking lot. Tables were filled with toys, each category grouped by age. Kids could choose one large toy and a couple of medium toys. At times, the decision was difficult to make, but kids had fun with this dilemma.
Deputy Jorge Valdivia, community officer, said he was happy with how the program was organized this year.
“We have families coming in at different times,” Valdivia said. Opening the station was also a way for families to feel comfortable with law enforcement.
Like many other organizations this year, the sheriff’s program saw a drop in toy donations.
“This year we were in trouble [getting] toys,” Valdivia said. “We did have a lot left over from last year though.”
Especially lacking were items for children ages 10 to 12 years old.
“Those are the toughest ages to get donations,” he said.
Happily, those at Saturday’s sheriff’s event weren’t concerned with what wasn’t there but in trying to choose from what was there.
The CV Sheriff’s Station accepts donations throughout the entire year. Anyone who would like to donate can do so by calling Dep. Valdivia at (818) 248-3464.