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EPIC Toy and Food Drive brings holiday joy to local families

More than $20,000 worth of items donated by Cal State L.A. community

Pictured: EPIC team with local family member.

Pictured: EPIC team organizing the donations from the campus community.

Pictured: EPIC staff member sorting out canned goods.

Stacks and stacks of puzzles, dolls, stuffed animals, bags of pasta, cereal boxes and canned goods donated by the Cal State L.A. community were collected during the 2013 EPIC Toy and Food Drive this past holiday season.

The donated toys were given away as Christmas presents for more than 240 children and the non-perishable food items were packaged up in gift boxes for 75 low-income families.

CSULA’s social work major Johanna Esparza believes that such drives do make a difference and are especially meaningful for her.

“I come from a low-income family, and I remember how there was a couple of Christmases where my parents did not have enough money to buy all of my siblings toys, so we would be the ones receiving toys from donations made to the local radio station,” said Esparza. “Being the kid on the receiving end, I was happy with any toy I got, because it was a toy.”

All in the spirit of giving, EPIC has organized the annual holiday drive for more than four decades to share the joy of the season with families in the surrounding communities. More than 70 students volunteered last month to help coordinate the distribution of boxes throughout campus as well as the sorting of donations.

EPIC, created in 1966, promotes volunteer community service by university students and creates opportunities for them to implement classroom theory in real-life situations that are beneficial to communities. EPIC also provides youth employment training, mentoring for schoolchildren, and—through America Reads and Counts—support for literacy and mathematics education.

Esparza hopes to one day work with a non-profit organization and continue to help people. She said, “I was more than happy to be one of the student coordinators of the EPIC Toy and Food Drive. I chose to participate because I wanted a child to feel the joy I felt when I would receive a toy.”

She was also touched by the facial expressions of those coming to pick up the boxes full of toys and food.

“They were true Kodak moments,” said Esparza. “The men and women had a special twinkle in their eyes, like the one you get on Christmas morning. Moments such as these, when you see gratitude in people’s eyes, lets you appreciate all our awesome work.”

Thanks to the generosity of Cal State L.A. faculty, staff, students and alums, an estimated $20,000 worth of toys and food were collected overall.

This year, EPIC consulted with 15 non-profit community agencies to select low-income families for the donations. They include the Asian Youth Center, East Los Angeles Community Youth Center, East Los Angeles Women’s Center, Foundation for Early Childhood, International Institute of Los Angeles, Jeffrey Foundation, Jenesse Center, Inc., Los Angeles Boys and Girls Club, Maravilla Foundation, Salazar Park, Search to Involve Pilipino Americans, Sheenway School and Culture Center, Southern California Indian Center, St. Francis Center, and the United American Indian Involvement, Inc.

Local resident Francisca Felipe, pictured above in the center with her two children, is thankful for all the toys and food her family received.

“I know my kids are going to be really happy,” said Felipe. “Thank you so much for everything but especially for bringing toys to my family during the holiday season.”

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Last Update: 01/12/2016