One thing is certain in the time of COVID-19 — Santa has been safely quarantined at the North Pole all year, so Christmas won’t be “on lockdown.”
But with the layoffs and financial hardships of so many this year, some families still need a little help. That’s where the “elves” at Team Hope and the Chelu Car Club come in.
On Saturday morning, several of them headed to Target to load up on gifts for children whose families might be struggling a bit more this year.
“It’s a blessing,” said volunteer Jennifer Farmer. She showed up with her husband Billy who was dressed as the Grinch … only this Grinch is giving away toys, not taking them.
“Ten or eleven years ago we had to use a program like this,” she said, tearing up a bit, “so now we are giving back.”
The club members were also joined by members of the Painters and Drywall Finishers Union, Local 376, who generously donated the funds to make the event happen. Each child had a $150 Target gift card spent on them.
In years past, the children have accompanied the group to pick out their toys, but this year, to be safe, only the volunteers came. But each had a sheet listing the names of the children they are shopping for, their age, and their wish list.
High on a lot of lists were Legos, sports equipment, and every little girl’s essential, the Barbie Dreamhouse. Unfortunately, those went quick, but Target offered to order them and deliver them to the volunteers’ houses.
The Chelu Car Club is known for hosting the Downtown Vallejo Car Show. Members were easy to spot at the store, with Low Rider emblazoned upon the backs of their T-shirts.
Pete Duenas was one of the organizers of the event, and he too said that he needed a service like this at one point in his life.
“My kids did Shop With A Cop,” he said, adding that it is gratifying to be able to turn it around and pay it back.
Normally his car club does fundraising all year for its charity, Team Hope, but since the pandemic hit, they haven’t been able to.
“We really got blessed by the local union reps,” he said.
Gary Miller is from Local 376 and president of Team Hope — and the lucky recipient of the last Barbie Dreamhouse. He said that the union collects donations from its members all year long so that they can give back during the holidays, including outreach to the homeless.
One thing that rarely gets mentioned about these toy drives is that they are fun for the adults too, who get to choose things that they know will make a child happy. One couple scoured the shelves for a Venom figure, from Marvel, another was on the lookout for Captain Underpants books.
The Farmers perused the basketballs. Who knew there were so many different balls to choose from? They settled on a black one from Wilson.
“This one, the green one, that’s perfect,” said Billy.