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Spreading Unconditional Love and Joy, One Toy at a Time

The pews of GLIDE Memorial Church were filled with unusual congregants this December – Thousands of toys occupied row after row of the sanctuary as GLIDE leadership, staff and volunteers worked in preparation for the 41st annual Toy Wonderland. This year, more than 800 bags of toys were delivered to our partner organizations across San Francisco, an increase of 150 bags in response to expanding need during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Toys are handpicked weeks in advance based on age and interests; from Disney dolls to LEGOS, there was something special for every child to feel a sense of joy and community during the holiday season. “I think what’s special this year is that we got to know the kids through questionnaires,” says Theresa Calderon, Family Resource Center Manager. “We got to know what they like, their favorite color, their favorite type of toys, their favorite cartoons and TV characters, so we can more specifically tailor the gifts to each child and their age range.”

Bags of toys wait to be delivered to children across San Francisco

Since March of 2020, families have faced greater challenges just to make ends meet – 93% of the families in GLIDE’s Janice Mirikitani Family, Youth and Childcare Center lost income during the pandemic. For families like Landy’s, having a community to lean on for support when she lost her job made a world of difference for her and her three daughters. “When the pandemic happened two years ago, GLIDE provided paper, food, presents, a lot of things families really needed. That’s why we love GLIDE,” says Landy.

Landy and her daughter, Jasmine, stand in front of a mural at GLIDE’s FYCC, where Landy’s daughters attend childcare.

The need for services is greater than ever, especially during the holidays, and GLIDE’s Family Youth and Childcare Center and Family Resource Center quickly pivoted its programs to continue safely providing care for its families. GLIDE plays a critical role for FYCC clients by providing a sense of normalcy, community of connection and hope during a stressful time. The pandemic was particularly tough on Landy’s eldest daughter, who longed to go back to school in person and see her friends. “GLIDE is like another home for my daughters, like a family. When I see the teachers, they are so friendly. A lot of families are happy having their kids here,” says Landy.

Many of GLIDE’s families are challenged by economic disparities and GLIDE continues to provide support and unconditional love, especially during the holidays. With the help of our community partner and sponsor, First Republic Bank, we were able to deliver more toys across the city and meet the growing need, to make this time extra special for the children in our community. “I think the impact during the pandemic is that we have had so many families lose their jobs and things are,” Theresa reflects. “To be able to have the consistency of getting gifts every year is wonderful.”