A long line stretched through Macy’s parking lot in Downtown Sunnyvale on Nov. 24. Those waiting came bearing new and unwrapped toys — their admission ticket for an adventurous ride on a fire engine through parts of the city. Officers and associates of the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety (SDPS) managed the rides. By the end of the event, 545 donated toys had gone into a truck for Sunnyvale Community Services. Bookasaurus, Learning Express Toys of Sunnyvale, Target Sunnyvale, the 501st Legion and PetSmart were also supporters of the event.
“The goal is to collect as many toys and gift cards so families in need can have something for Christmas,” said Captain Shawn Ahearn, Public Information Officer for SDPS. “For those who bring a new toy or gift card, it gets them a ride on our fire engines. We have a route that we go on. We’re driving on the city streets around the Town Center.”
“All the toys are donated to Sunnyvale Community Services, which distributes them to low-income families in Sunnyvale,” said Carolyn Alexander, Director of Operations for Sunnyvale Community Services. “Historically, Rides for Toys was held in the Toys “R” Us parking lot, but with the closure of Toys “R” Us, we have moved the event to Downtown Sunnyvale this year.”
In December, the food warehouse of Sunnyvale Community Services will be transformed into a free toy and gift shopping area.
“The attendees of this event get to choose toys and gifts off our shelves for their families,”Alexander said. “Families like having over 50 toys to choose from on our shelves for any one age bracket. We are constantly refilling the shelves with the donated toys and gifts. Our holiday center is open to six families every 15 minutes. The kids aren’t there. It’s the parents who do the shopping.”
Sunnyvale Community Services is still interested in receiving new and unwrapped toys with an estimated $25 value or more.
“This year, we’re aiming to get 5,000 toys from the complete season. We’re running 50 to 60 different toys drives and Rides for Toys is one of them,” Alexander said. “Sunnyvale Community Services (at 725 Kifer Rd, Sunnyvale) is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday for toy donation drop offs. All Sunnyvale Fire Stations are accepting toys now through December from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. 7 days a week. There is no cutoff date at this point. Families will be coming to Sunnyvale Community Services up until Dec. 21. Certainly, earlier donations are encouraged.”
According to Alexander, families who have access to these gifts are clients of Sunnyvale Community Services, who have also received food benefits from the agency during the year.
“We are primarily a food bank and we help with financial assistance for low income Sunnyvale residents,” Alexander said. “We realize that trying to make ends meet here in Sunnyvale is really difficult. So we have a higher income eligibility for our benefits than other agencies throughout the Bay Area. For example, a family of four making approximately $65,000 a year or less may be eligible for these benefits. People can come in to meet with a case worker without an appointment to see if they’re eligible.”