Beat the Holiday Blues: Akoma Toy/Coat Giveaway
By Dianne Anderson
Feeling a little down? Feeling a little blue?
Grab an extra coat and head over to the Akoma Unity Center to enjoy the holiday bustle with hundreds of families and children at the annual toy and coat giveaway.
On December 21, organizers are calling on all those who want to come out to give a big hug, get a big hug, or lend a helping hand to those in need.
Rhonda Kelley said volunteers are welcome and needed to help sort through a ton of donations by age or size. There is plenty of work to be done, but they also have lots of delicious snacks.
“For the toy and coat giveaway it would be would awesome if we could get volunteers,” said Kelley with the nonprofit Akoma Unity Center at Anne Shirrells Park.
The giveaway runs from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. Parents and children are invited to come out to mix and mingle with staff, and learn about their local year-round academic and support programming.
Kelley said the day before Thanksgiving, the Girl Scouts and a few of their scholars helped distribute dinners to seniors at the Arrowhead Woods Apartments on 16th Street. They had food baskets for 15 residents, along with a raffle with games. Those who were bedridden had plates of food personally delivered.
Through the experience, she said local kids are learning about the importance of how to lift others up through the holidays.
“It teaches them so much to stop worrying about yourself and do something for someone else because at the end of the day, it makes you feel so wonderful,” she said.
Last year was her first year participating more closely in the event with the community. Everyone was lined up all the way down the park and they had a lot of fun. A big donation of 500 shoes from Adidas came in, and volunteers were needed to separate the sizes.
Families took whatever they needed and the parking lot was transformed into a boutique with clothing racks.
“Just the look on everyone’s faces, there were so many points of the day that I was biting my mouth so I wouldn’t cry. I felt the love and the gratitude, they couldn’t stop saying thank you,” she said.
Last month, local health advocate Morina Lopez presented her “How to Beat the Holiday Blues” workshop offered by Riverside Department of Public Social Services.
Lopez, a community outreach worker in Moreno Valley, shared how helping others this time of year is a great way to lift spirits.
But in her travels, she sees people are worried so much about money that they miss the reason for the season. Parents are stressing over not enough cash to buy the kids’ toys.
“They want electronics and they may be upset that they can’t afford that new IPad for the kids, or their parent doesn’t have the money to buy toys,” said Lopez.
She regularly goes out to host community workshops about healthy choices and services at clinics in Colton, Rialto, Fontana and Bloomington. She also presents classes at a variety of locations throughout Riverside County, and welcomes new partnerships with local community programs in all their service areas.
The centers offer walk-in services, but she said clients should schedule appointments to avoid wait times. They also provide adult medical services, pediatric services, women’s health, dental care, and vision care.
No one is turned away for lack of insurance. They offer a sliding scale based on income.
Coming up, they are also hosting several holiday events and toy giveaways at various locations. On December 18, Magnolia Community Health Center, and again on December 20, the Bloomington Community Health Center, are giving out toys.
This time of year, she said some people take solace in eating their worries away, but during the holidays, that’s not necessarily a bad thing
“It really depends on the population, some people feel that food is my only way out,” she said. “We want to explain that it’s okay. Everyone goes through these kinds of emotions.”
To get or give help at Akoma Unity Center, see http://akomaunitycenter.org
For information on CHSICA locations and services, see