“It’s really very rewarding,” said Claudia Jack, who’s spearheaded the Ocean Beach Town Council-sponsored event for the last 21 years. This year, the Town Council will serve about 80 families, seven seniors and a woman adopted from a local domestic-violence house.
“It’s all local,” she said. “We probably are the only community, the only private organization that is not a corporation, that does this in San Diego.”
Ocean Beach Town Council president Gretchen Newsom agrees.
“It’s a very powerful experience, very meaningful,” said Newsom, one of about 40 community volunteers who helps Jack do the collection and distribution of toys and food every year. “It’s people in OB coming together in a grass-roots effort to take care of our community and those in need.”
The food and toy drive helps locals in need through the help of numerous partners. Any necessary purchases are also made locally.
Local legislators also contributed to this year’s toy and food drive.
“Congressman Scott Peters donated $500, a portion of his paycheck when they had the federal shutdown to local organizations, including ours,” Newsom said. “Assemblywoman Toni Atkins also donated 10 frozen turkeys.”
Jack said people benefiting from the annual Christmas drive “get enough food for at least a week — a turkey, four or five cans of food, milk, bacon or sausage and bread rolls,” adding toys are given away to children “accordingly by their ages.”
Regarding toys, Jack has one goal that she achieves every year.
“Everything is wrapped. Nothing leaves this place unless it’s wrapped,” she said, adding the reason for that is simple.
“A gift that’s wrapped makes children feel special,” Jack said. “There’s nothing like seeing the twinkle in a child’s eye receiving a gift that’s wrapped.”
The OB Food and Toy Drive for unwrapped donated goods began the week before Thanksgiving with collection box locations including Ocean Beach Elementary School, the Ocean Beach Farmers Market music area, Pruitt Realty, Remember to Breathe Health Center, Rowland Realty, Shades Oceanfront Bistro, To The Point Café and Union and US banks.
Those collection points this year have netted a veritable cornucopia of goodies.
“We’ve gotten enough to fill close to 90 boxes,” said Jack.
She said volunteers now have their hands full sorting through donations for distribution, which is handled through local schools and churches. Needy individuals are identified in advance and recipients’ names are kept confidential. Local banks were also major participants in the food and toy drive.
“People dropped off toys at Chase Bank,” she said. “US Bank had teddy bear, book and angel Christmas trees at their two locations, where people could donate one of those, and they’re brought in for the collection.”
Jack said the significance of donating an unwrapped toy or food item is great every holiday season.
“It could be somebody out of a job, somebody just having hardship, somebody that has had an operation and can’t work anymore. It could be a layoff,” she said. “We just adopt families and people in need in Ocean Beach.”
’Tis better to give than to receive, especially this time of year, Jack said.
“I’m a little older and I have everything I need,” she said. “People ask me what I want for Christmas, and I tell them 10 cans of corn for the food and toy drive.”