Sanne Bergh/Daily Journal
Reyna Sandoval and Rebecca Kleinsmith hold donated toys at the San Mateo County Event Center where the Samaritan House holiday drive will take place.
The Samaritan House in San Mateo has been collecting toys all year long in preparation for its annual holiday drive at the Redwood Hall of the San Mateo County Event Center this weekend.
The drive will run Thursday and Friday from 3 p.m.-7 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. The distribution event will serve low-income families who typically would not be able to afford toys and gifts for Christmas. The holiday drive will serve about 800 families and 2,000 children this year. Last year, Samaritan House passed out about 3,000 gifts to more than 1,400 children.
The about 700 toys and gifts at Redwood Hall is only about halfway toward its quota for toys and coats. The toys vary from dolls, board games, Legos and fire trucks to local team paraphernalia and gift cards. The drive is hoping to give about three to five gifts per child. In years past, they haven’t run out of toys to hand out, but will adjust the amount of gifts handed out depending on how many donations they receive.
The hall will transform into a winter wonderland “toy shop” and will include a Santa Claus, carolers, a Christmas tree and dancers. The Saturday of the holiday drive will be “family day” and has historically been the busiest and most entertaining of the distribution days. There will be a boutique for parents as well, and offers necessity items like toiletries or small-item gifts for adults.
“Not so much stuff for the dads though,” volunteer coordinator Reyna Sandoval joked.
“Our Santa Claus is a volunteer who works in our kitchen,” said Sandoval. “He’s been our Santa for the last two years and will be there only on Saturday.”
Over the years, the holiday drive has run out of coats to give out to clients and has always had a high demand for warm-winter clothing.
“They can be gently used,” said Samaritan House representative Rebecca Kleinsmith.
Gender-neutral gifts are the most popular gifts, and sports equipment like basketballs and soccer balls are the highest in demand.
The Samaritan House Holiday Program serves low-income families living in San Mateo County who have pre-registered as Samaritan House clients. The Samaritan House has been working since 1974 with low-income families to meet immediate needs and has operated the holiday drive since 1978.
“It’s a great feeling for the children,” Sandoval said. “A lot of these families have hard-working parents who can only pay rent and can’t afford extra for Christmas gifts.”
For families who cannot make it Thursday through Saturday, there are makeup days on Monday and Tuesday.
The Samaritan House has a food distribution program as well, and will be offering turkeys, chickens and non-perishable food items to clients for Christmas dinners at Parkside Elementary School at 714 Indian Ave. in San Mateo on the same Saturday at 9 a.m. A lot of families have already signed up to receive food already and have registered to attend both events on the same day.
It’s a busy event, said Sandoval, “its in the same neighborhood where a lot of the families live.”
Currently, the holiday drive is at capacity for volunteers but is in dire need of donations and is accepting gently used or new coats and unwrapped and unopened toys at the Samaritan House at 4031 Pacific Blvd. in San Mateo.
“We really do appreciate all the help and the donations we do get,” Kleinsmith said, “because of the help were receive we are able to serve a lot of people in our community.”
For more information visit www.samaritanhousesanmateo.org or call (650) 341-4081.