Few experiences brighten a child’s face during Christmastime like seeing Santa and receiving a special gift. This year, especially for families suffering financial crisis, opportunities for joy have been few and far between. Fortunately, the Lord provided for these families when the San Jose Location and other volunteers worked tirelessly to distribute over 8,000 toys to more than 1,800 needy families from December 19 through December 21, 2020. Please check out the video links at the bottom of the article!

When many local charities had to reduce or cancel their toy giveaway programs due to the pandemic, Bill Lee, an Auxiliary member of the Western Association and the Executive Director of San Jose’s Martha’s Kitchen, decided to fill the void, and asked the Order of Malta for help. The members discovered that Toys for Tots, partnered with the US Marines, would donate 5,000 toys for children ranging from infants to age 14.

It takes tremendous effort to coordinate an event of this magnitude, and the San Jose Hospitaller team, members and volunteers, led by Tony Mirenda, Bill Beasley, and Ken Hurley, executed flawlessly!

The week before the event, Knights, Dames, and many other volunteers worked diligently from home or at Blach Construction, to carefully wrap the first 5,000 toys. On Friday, volunteers loaded the gifts onto trucks and delivered them to Martha’s Kitchen.

To maximize safety, toys were distributed two ways, at a drive-thru pickup on one side of the building, and a walk-up on the other side.  Members and volunteers directed traffic to a drive-through line in the neighborhood. At the front of the line, volunteers spoke with families in the cars, wrote the toy orders on an index card, and placed it on the car windshield. Each family was then directed into one of two lines in the parking lot, where more volunteers filled the written order with one toy for each child listed on the index card.

Many families, seeing the long drive-through line, parked their cars and joined the line of masked, socially distanced participants in the walk-up line on the other side of the building. Santa walked around and greeted everyone.

The demand for toys was higher than anticipated, so Sunday afternoon, 2,000 more Toys for Tots toys arrived from the Marine warehouse, which were then sorted into age groups, and wrapped. On Monday, 1,000 additional toys were delivered from other local charities, and were also sorted and wrapped during the toy distribution. When the wrapping paper ran out, a supply of gift bags covered the remainder. By day’s end, about a hundred toys remained, which were then distributed to more needy people.

In a year wrought with families facing job loss and uncertainty, volunteers shared how incredible it was to come together to serve the San Jose community and to help them celebrate the birth of our Savior, by ensuring that each child received a beautiful gift from Santa on Christmas morning.

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