Sista’s Making A Difference
By Dianne Anderson
Growing up, a stint of homelessness didn’t mean helplessness for Ronnie Miller’s mother, who quickly stepped up to protect her eight-member family that was suddenly out on the streets.
Out of necessity, she learned to work the system that had worked against them.
In the pursuit of local resources, the family overcame all the obstacles. Fast forward to today, that stumbling block became the basis for Sista’s Making a Difference in helping other local families access survival tools they need.
“My mom was good at utilizing resources in the community to get by when it was Thanksgiving baskets, Christmas, and back to school. We really counted on the community to help our household,” she said.
Miller is an adult now and her nonprofit takes that firsthand knowledge to stand in the gap between local families and community leaders by shedding light on what’s in their own backyard. Once a month, their volunteers go out to provide personal items and resources for those who call the streets home.
This time of year, Sista’s Making a Difference is also readying for its huge annual live event, a massive Christmas giveaway. Last year, they gave 7,000 toys. The last two years they had drive-through events, but this year, Miller expects a greater turnout.
“This year, it’s outside, and our goal is 10,000 toys. Right now, we have 3,000 signed up,” she said.
On Saturday, December 17, Winter Wonderland hosts its 5th Annual Community Christmas celebration that runs from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at San Bernardino Valley College, located at 701 S. Mt. Vernon Ave., in San Bernardino. The event will have food, drinks, gifts and family fun, and is first come first serve until the toys run out.
“We will have a dominoes tournament going down in the cafeteria. We have a KidZone with the jumpers, a lot of kid resources, and a lot of county resources out to provide for families. We give out things, but we also give a hand up,” she said.
The community can also expect too many resources to count through their many partners. Among them, the local public defender office is a partner and will be on-site to help with expungements. There is live entertainment planned, and on-the-spot hires. Healthnet is bringing a mobile unit for screenings.
Her program has been working on Christmas since last New Year, and she said they received strong support from local businesses, who helped push their toy drives since their inception five years ago. This year, they had about ten drop box locations in the city and outside areas for people to donate.
Last week, she attended a food giveaway to gauge the need of how many people would turn out, and listen to their stories to see how her organization can help in the future.
“People don’t have access to get things, they don’t have a car, it takes a community to take care of the community because it’s really hard,” she said. “We tell people to never give up. It’s not the end of their story. Whatever we go through in life, it’s just part of our testimony.”
To get the word out about the toy giveaway, she hit all the social media, but registration filled up fast and closed almost as soon as opened, but people in need can still come out. She said some may not be computer savvy, or able to register on time.
For those who missed it, not to worry. They also will be able to get toys and goods.
But those who signed up early will have a special drawing for some bigger items.
“That way it is an incentive to get preregistered, but it’s not taking away from the people that didn’t get a chance. I’m old school, we did get flyers out to local businesses,” she said.
Also attending the Winter Wonderland event, Dr. Gwen Dowdy Rodgers of Arrowhead United Way said their organization will host a pop-up Elf Library for the children, complete with free books, giveaways, and holiday-themed STEM Kits for the children to use at home.
“Our staff will also be onsite informing families on how we can provide support through our latest Fighting Food Insecurity program to connect them to funding and perishable goods for their holiday meals.
She is excited that Arrowhead United Way is gearing up to bring holiday cheer to the communities and organizations in need of support this December through their seasonal programming.
“That means AUW will be continuing our annual Ginger Bread Kids initiative that connects local children with gifts that they may have not otherwise received in December due to their parent’s financial hardships. Or, in most cases a lack of funding at the shelter,” said Dr. Dowdy Rogers, AUW president.
Through the initiative, she said children can submit their requests ahead of time, and a local business shops their gifts for them to make their wishes come true.
“This initiative has been a yearly tradition and we are always seeking new businesses to join us in increasing the amount of children served each year – last year we collected 150 gifts,” she said.
For more information on Sista’s Making a Difference, see https://www.facebook.com/sistasmd2020