In 1996, we began what was once known as Project Bless a Child. The project itself is an effort to reach as many children as possible in the San Antonio Community by giving away toys at Christmas. We gladly pronounce that Christmas is our favorite time of year. Even though so many children and volunteers are blessed by this event, it is a sad realization that many other children in the city still do not have a merry Christmas. This burden birthed what is known today as “Jarel’s Toy Chest.” In 1999 we began with Deborah Melvin as the coordinator and chairperson, the goal is to reach children in the city who would not have a merry Christmas because of family financial woes or other challenges.
We began by sending out our organization to meet the needs of the project by asking individual members of the community to contribute a toy or toys. This soon led to reaching out to businesses and partnering with the International Community Development Corporation to make this project a great success. We take a lot of pride in the toy that the child will receive. In our own unique way, we graciously receive donations and toys that are “age appropriate” for the children in the community. Every toy is purchased with safety in mind. Each give-away event reaches over 2,000 children. We will not turn away any child that comes during event hours, because we believe that the heart of the community will respond when needed.
Contributions come through leaders in business, philanthropy, and faith that are united in their goal to ensure the holiday rings with affirmation of our community spirit. Donations are tax deductible and donations are publicly acknowledged at this great event and in the community.
We will organize, decorate gifts, and help coordinate the event. The toys are wrapped in brightly colored paper and the age of the child, boy or girl, is labeled on the package. The toys are brand names such as Mattel, Hasbro, V-Tech, Leap Frog and others. We also give 100 bicycles to children through our free raffle system. Personal CD players complete with headsets, remote-controlled cards, dolls such as Bratz and Barbie’s are also among the myriad of toys. Others included hand held video games, board games, basketballs, and footballs.
We have had prominent city and state leaders such as the SAISD Superintendent and Honorable Mayor Ed Garza, U.S. Department Secretary of Housing & Urban Development Julian Castro, City Council members, Judge Peter Sakai, State Representative Ken Mercer, and much more. Cartoon characters such as Ironman, Spiderman, Batman, Sponge Bob, Bob the Builder, Dora, and the infamous Spurs Coyote, have entertained the children.
Ask any volunteer or committee member about why they do this. You will soon find out that they do it for the children. It brings us joy to our heart to see the faces of the parents, as well. The parents are so elated that someone cares enough for their child to give them something for Christmas that they themselves were unable to provide due to circumstances in their lives at that present time. For us, there is no greater joy than showing the love we have, especially at this time of the year. For some, this is the only expression of love they will ever see. Numerous phone calls come in to our offices from parents thanking our organization and ICDC for providing such an event and assisting the community.
Any business wishing to participate in this annual event may do so by sending a tax-deductible donation in any amount to Jarel’s Toy Chest or the International Community Development Corporation. Donations should be marked “for Jarel’s Toy Chest.”
During this joyous season we want to thank all of our volunteers for their assistance with shopping, wrapping, labeling, and planning the program for the toy give-away.