Dec. 5—An annual toy drive for disadvantaged children is set to bring holiday cheer to kids across Northern New Mexico.
"These kids that we were able to provide some Christmas to — literally we were it," said Jyl DeHaven, a commercial real estate broker with EXIT Realty Advantage NM, which is organizing the toy drive for the second year in a row.
The Northern New Mexico Toy Drive accepts unwrapped toys and gift cards at donation drop-off locations across the region, including Santa Fe, Los Alamos and Española. The gifts are then distributed to children through a network of partner organizations.
This year, those organizations include Casa Familia; the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department; Jemez Pueblo; Las Cumbres; Presbyterian Medical Services; Portfolio Resident Services; Santo Domingo Social Services; the Santa Fe Indigenous Center; and Villa Therese Catholic Clinic.
DeHaven said organizers prefer educational gifts that exercise kids' creativity. "Art supplies, coloring books, Legos," she said.
The toy drive has existed for years, and in the past, was run by local firefighters. But due to the coronavirus pandemic, the first responders looked for others to volunteer. Fire stations are still used as donation drop-off locations.
DeHaven said last year's drive drew around $40,000 in cash and gifts that went to about 1,000 kids.
Some of the organizations that receive the gifts for their kids say it's made a difference.
"We get a lot of used things here," said Cara Latil, program manager at the Casa Familia shelter in Santa Fe. "It's nice that we have brand-new items that we can give kids."