SJUSD students help distribute donated toys from the “Soboba Gives Back” bus for needy San Jacinto students
■ By Corey Evan / Reporter
While most will have a very Merry Christmas this year, there are those families who can’t afford to give their kids what’s on their list, which can make the mood not so merry and the season not quite as bright. That’s where San Jacinto Unified School District (SJUSD) students come into play.
Students gathered at the district warehouse at sunset on Tuesday, Nov. 28 to unload the “Soboba Gives Back” charter bus and sort toys which will be given to low-income students living in the district this Christmas. Having turned the district warehouse into Santa’s workshop, San Jacinto students and staffers volunteering at the event were also accompanied by local dignitaries including San Jacinto Mayor Scott Miller, SJUSD Superintendent Diane Perez, the San Jacinto Chamber of Commerce, the Soboba Fire Department and others.
There is a genuine need for this generosity in our valley: 82 percent of SJUSD students live in low socio-economic conditions, according to district statistics as identified through their free/reduced price meal program.
This year, more than 600 toys were donated to the Toy Drive, and hundreds of students, teachers and parents, and a pair of tigers, acted as Santa’s elves to get them off the big bus and sort and wrap them for delivery. At Christmas, 35 low-income families from each elementary and preschool site will receive them. That’s 280 students, and their siblings!
According to Carla Adame, SJUSD family and community engagement specialist, this event is among her favorites to help coordinate.
“I task our family liaisons at each of our schools to select the students, and I can tell you that when we see them show up here and receive the gifts…I can just tell right away that it was a perfectly-selected student family,” said Adame. “They’re grateful when they come here.”
SJUSD Communications & Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Dawn Lawrence said Soboba support in this effort to give is pivotal to the event happening in the first place.
“Without this program, we would not be able to serve families in this way,” said Lawrence. “Other organizations have reached out with holiday food baskets, but only enough to serve a total of six to 12 families. This annual toy distribution is extremely important to our youngest students and their families.”
But most importantly, this event has helped to remind the San Jacinto Valley that the spirit of Christmas is to give.
SJUSD thanks the Soboba Foundation and all those who helped to make this year’s toy drive a success.