The holiday season took a turn for the better Friday for nearly 100 low-income Boston families, as parents and grandparents gathered in the South End to pick up donated toys in hopes of making their kids’ holiday just a little bit brighter.
Action for Boston Community Development, or ABCD, a nonprofit dedicated to providing helpful resources to struggling families, amassed more than 7,000 toys to be distributed between late December and early January. Families gathered in the festively decorated South End Neighborhood Service Center throughout the day to pick up toys they had requested from the ABCD’s annual toy drive, according to John Drew, president and CEO of ABCD.
“There’s a sparkle of joy from having toys and things in the household that they wouldn’t normally be able to get,” said Drew, who has been involved with ABCD for nearly 50 years. “They deserve to have a wonderful life . . . Nobody should be left out.”
Families were treated to cookies and hot chocolate as they picked up their toys from Santa-hat-wearing ABCD staff members. Holiday music rang through the community center as parents picked up the trucks, chemistry sets, and dolls they had requested for their kids, ABCD officials said.
“We try to put a spark in their life in a time when they don’t have much going on,” Drew said. “It’s a community thing. This is a nice-smile-day for a lot of people.”
Tamika Ramos, 35, and her mother were among the 93 families that signed up to pick up toys between Thursday afternoon and Friday. She arrived at the service center around 11 a.m. ready to pick up toys for her three kids, who are between 10 and 16 years old, she said.
Ramos, a South End resident, moved to Boston from Puerto Rico earlier this year, after she found herself struggling in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Toy drives like this one, she said, help make the holiday season easier.
“We have more things in Massachusetts, and in Puerto Rico things are bad,” Ramos said. “Anything that we receive, we’ll be grateful for it.”
Approximately 198 kids were expected to receive toys from the drive, officials said.
“My kids will be happy,” said Ramos, who is working on getting her nursing license. “Kids are kids. They’re happy with anything.”
Toy recipients also include homeless families living in shelters and other families in need who have been “adopted” by families that may have more resources. The parents in the low-income families submitted a list of toys for their kids, and the adoptive family donated the toys on the list to the toy drive, Drew said.
ABCD collaborates with charities like the Salvation Army to collect gifts for the toy drive. The organizations share the toys people donate among themselves to try to distribute them to more families, Drew said.
“It’s a lot of work, but we have joy, too, in doing the work,” he said.
ABCD offered visiting families some basic food, like bread, cheese, and canned foods. Families were also encouraged to visit a nearby food pantry if they needed additional support, Drew said.
“It’s all about helping a family unit in a time of need as much as you can to stabilize them, and it works,” Drew said. “It’s all about love; it’s all about taking care of each other.”