400 families of school district benefit from program hosted by Soboba
■ Robin Underwood / Contributed
The 11th Annual Soboba Gives Back Toy Drive gave back to the community yet again with a tour bus stuffed to the brim with brand new toys for the valley’s needy families during this holiday season.
On Monday, Nov. 26, the Soboba tour bus guided by a fire truck made its way into the San Jacinto School District parking lot with dozens of families, volunteers, and students grouping together just outside the district’s warehouse. They all prepared for the astounding amount of gifts donated by the tribe.
Music, christmas lights, and a large group of cheerful community members welcomed the tribe, offering their gratitude with help to unload all the gifts that Soboba had donated for the 400 prospective families. Two line trails from the bus to the warehouse immediately took shape, as toys were swiftly unloaded from the bus by tribal members and passed down the lines filled with students, school staff, and volunteers. It took about an hour to unload every gift from the tour bus.
The district’s seven elementary schools and one preschool each get to choose fifty students to participate in the program. However, a count of exact student participants won’t be reached until all of the families sibling counts are completed during the distribution event, where volunteers and school officials set out to help each child meet Santa after receiving their gifts.
San Jacinto School District official Dawn Lawrence helped shed some light on just how much the toy drive “Unstuff the Bus” program means to the community’s younger students and their families. Lawrence revealed that 82 percent of the San Jacinto student population lives within the low socio-economic status, as determined by qualification for free or reduced lunch within the schools.
Serving about 140 families during the first few years of “Unstuff the Bus,” the program now helps over 400 family participants who wouldn’t have been able to benefit if not for the generous donations gifted by the Soboba tribe each year.