A couple of years ago around Christmastime, Evangelina Trujeque and her husband Hector realized they bought too many toys for their children. They were ready to return the items when her husband suggested distributing the toys to disadvantaged families in a Santa Clara neighborhood. After connecting with the grateful children who received the toys, Trujeque considered other ways to support youth in need. In 2014, the couple gave away about 100 donated backpacks. On Aug. 8, Trujeque led the Bay Area Paying It Forward 2nd Annual Backpack Giveaway at Henry Schmidt Park.
“We gave away about 100 backpacks again this year,” says Trujeque. “This year, we got mostly monetary donations to purchase backpacks and my husband and I also bought some on our own. When you go to junior high and high school, the average backpack costs $20-30. We wanted to make sure these kids get a sturdy backpack. We also had people who came who weren’t on the list, and we didn’t want to turn anybody away. So my husband offered to go to Target and pick up backpacks for them.”
People found out about the backpack drive through flyers and a Facebook page called Bay Area Paying it Forward, which cites “helping out local families” as a goal on its page. Some recipients of the backpacks came with stories that deeply touched Trujeque.
“One boy we met goes to school with my son and he came to the backpack giveaway,” she says. “The boy’s mom had passed away and his father is wheelchair bound and on disability. He asked for a backpack for his little sister and he offered to volunteer at the event to work for it… For his own backpack, he’d use a plastic Safeway bag and he said he’d get picked on by other kids for that. We made sure he got a backpack too.”
Christina Ortiz, who knows Trujeque through their children’s school and church, sings her praises.
“I just want to acknowledge a friend who has gone out of her way to do this backpack drive,” she says.
In spite of the positive feedback Trujeque has received, she emphasizes that she did not execute the philanthropy program on her own.
“This is not a one woman show,” she says. “I wouldn’t have been able to do all of this if it weren’t for friends and family who were there to help out. For example, a cousin of mine donated $700. Erika Urrabazo and Sarina Hammell founded Bay Area Paying It Forward with me. Christina, my Aunt Cathy Trujeque and Lucia and Scott Earney were also a big help.”
She also points to other members of the community helping prepare local children for school.
“Dave Padilla of Mission City Barber is giving free haircuts to kids who can’t afford haircuts for back to school [on Sunday, August 16],” she says. “He is volunteering on his day off.”