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How GLIDE is making the most of the Holiday Season for Kids

Toy Wonderland, Old Navy Shopping Spree, and more!

Filled with uncertainty and change, the last ten months of the pandemic have brought loss and hardship to many families everywhere—with a disproportionate share falling on people of color and those challenged by poverty. Many in our community work hard every day to make ends meet, and this year the economic hit they took has made things even more difficult. 

In all of this, children have had their own unique burdens. While thankfully not as susceptible to the virus, children nonetheless have been greatly affected by its arrival.

Here at GLIDE, we’re going all out to rally around our community with love and support. With the holidays upon us, we want to make this time of year extra special for the kids of low-income families because they, too, have had their worlds turned upside down.

(Photo from 2017’s Toy Wonderland)

“There’s more need this year,” says Liz Steyer, member of GLIDE Church and a longtime volunteer in GLIDE’s Toy Wonderland, who has returned again this year to oversee the volunteer effort.

“Kids are at home and more isolated this year. Most of them are doing remote school. Many of their parents are out of work [because of the economic crisis] and so can’t provide the kind of toys and holiday that they normally would.

“These toys provide an opportunity for creativity. A way to get kids off their screen and building with Legos or just being imaginative doing other things.”

And play is what childhood should be all about.

“For young kids, their job is to play,” says Liz. “The way their brains grow is through imagination, creativity and play. Giving them an opportunity to have toys that are age-appropriate, that are picked by the GLIDE staff and people that work with them, is more than just charity or making a fun holiday.”

GLIDE’s annual Toy Wonderland, sponsored by First Republic Bank, will look a little different this year in order to operate safely for all. But because of the need, it’s going forward with an even bigger reach than in years past. GLIDE programs staff have been busy redesigning an event that will now be exclusively geared to delivering toys—nearly 3,000 toys in 700 curated bags—via GLIDE’s Family, Youth and Childcare Center (FYCC) and other key programs as well as 12 partnering organizations across San Francisco. In all, Toy Wonderland will reach twice the number of children as last year.

“Hundreds of kids, not just kids affiliated with GLIDE, will be getting toys,” explains Liz. “They’re filling out wish lists of what they want. Because of pandemic safety precautions, people are not able to sign up and volunteer as they usually would this year, but we will have a small select number of volunteers who will be taking the wish lists and filling up bags of toys with the children’s names on them and delivering them to the partnering agencies. So all the toys will get out to the children, even though we can’t have a special Toy Wonderland site-specific event as usual.”

GLIDE will be safely delivering the bags of brand new, individually-curated toys via its GLIDE on the Go vans on Thursday, December 17, to community partners throughout San Francisco who will, in turn, hand them out to children in their programs. 

“I believe that GLIDE is really the heart and soul and safety net of San Francisco,” says Liz. “So this is a way that people can participate in creating a safety net for the children of San Francisco, especially those in lots of need.”

(Photo from Toy Wonderland 2019)

The Toy Drive for GLIDE’s Toy Wonderland ended on Dec 13. Sorting and curated bagging of toys is underway through Dec 15. Toys are being delivered across San Francisco on Dec. 16. Above is a behind-the-scenes look at the sorting and bagging taking place this week.

Below are some of the other events GLIDE and its loving community members and generous supporters have already organized to support our kids and their families in this especially challenging time.

Back to School Celebration

Every year, GLIDE Church hosts a Back to School Celebration for the kids in our community to help get them prepped for school. This year, the event looked a bit different. To practice physical distancing, an amazing team of volunteers led by Church members Tyree Leslie and Steve Steve Hyzer created Back to School goodie bags for kids ages 3 to 18. The goodie bags included headphones, at-home activities, games, books, foam balls, crayons or colored pencils, and three snacks.

“Mister Marvin and Perry [in the Church Office] helped select social justice books for most age groups,” adds Steve, “a big plus for the times we live in.  Those five and under received a stuffed toy and washable crayons.”

In all, approximately 1,400 items were distributed to 149 students to help ensure kids got through this particularly tough school year well supplied, while also letting them know they’re a part of a loving community that cares about them and encourages them to do their best—and to have fun!

“I volunteer to help organize GLIDE’s Back to School Celebration, each year, for the same reason I volunteer at GLIDE,” says Steve, “because I get back so much more than I give.  This year’s event was different due to Covid. The struggles of pulling this all together are now forgotten but hopefully our students will remember everyone’s generosity for some time. Thanks to GLIDE Staff for making this successful.”

Tyree joined in giving praise to all involved. “This was one of the greatest BTC Teams Ever,” writes Tyree. “Go Team!!!”

Halloween Family COVID-19 Testing Day

Halloween is a holiday widely loved by all children, but due to the pandemic this year many kids weren’t able to celebrate the same way by dressing up and trick-or-treating at night. We wanted families in our community to feel safe and welcomed for the festive holiday, so GLIDE’s Family Resource Center and Walk-In Center teamed up to host a Halloween Family COVID-19 Testing event, where families could come together and get tested safely, receive goodie bags, and pick out pumpkins!

Thanksgiving Brunch

Every year, GLIDE hosts a Thanksgiving Meal for the community, and this year we felt we had to do all we could to make it possible to safely celebrate with the community and make the day meaningful. Our staff and a smaller then usual but mighty number of volunteers decorated outdoor tent seating areas with festive Charlie Brown decor and served delicious Thanksgiving meals. The settings came complete with kids’ activity kits, lovingly assembled by volunteers Tyree Leslie, Steve Hyzer and Sara Diamond. Seeing the smiles on families’ faces was the best part of Thanksgiving for us.

Old Navy Shopping Spree

Every year, Old Navy and GAP generously sponsor and host an Old Navy Shopping Spree for kids enrolled at GLIDE’s Janice Mirikitani Family, Youth and Childcare Center (FYCC). This year, instead of a store visit, Old Navy arranged to safely deliver to FYCC the items the families had selected online. As this pandemic has taken away many precious sources of income, this event was very special for many families, allowing kids to get new winter clothes just in time for the holidays. 

“I picked out winter clothes for my son. I got vests, pants and sweatshirts to keep him warm,” said one FYCC mom.

“I picked out sweaters, overalls, a Christmas dress, and a bunch of cute holiday jammies for my daughter,” shared Tiffany, another FYCC mom.

We asked Old Navy Shopping Spree participants, What’s your favorite part of the holidays?

“I like Thanksgiving, because she is so thankful to be in this country with endless opportunities and support,” said one FYCC mom, adding, “I like Christmas because it is a time to be with family and enjoy your time together.”

“I enjoy all the holiday festivities but love the giving aspect of it as well,” she continued. “I think the holidays should be a time of helping others. I take my daughter to the park, water play, and do lots of arts and crafts. This pandemic has impacted my family because I am a mother of three, so navigating a work schedule and my kids’ school Zoom classes has been difficult but not impossible with the help of my family.”