Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas gifts for San Fernando Valley foster care children

Givers remember foster children
Doyle, Sue. Los Angeles Daily News, Dec. 7, 2008.

SHERMAN OAKS - Despite a down economy, the spirit of giving was up Sunday as hundreds donated tiny trucks, Barbies and holiday gifts for 3,000 San Fernando Valley foster-care children.

Toys, books and board games were stacked high in a 1936 Ford coupe and a 1957 Ford Thunderbird, parked on Ventura Boulevard at Hazeltine Avenue to attract more passers-by to give to the 10th annual event thrown by the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association in a Ralphs parking lot.

"These gifts are going to foster-care children, and they are the ones who need it most," said Richard Close, president of the homeowners group, adding that the piles of donated presents Sunday seemed higher than ever before.

"These gifts are probably the only ones they will get."

Presents will serve children from the Chatsworth bureau of the Department of Children and Family Services, which oversees 27,000 foster youth in Los Angeles County.

When Adena Schutzman of West Los Angeles learned of the event, she asked the homeowners group which children get overlooked in toy drives. The answer: teens.

So the 22-year-old bought a $25 gift card to a movie theater chain - a present she hopes a teenager will enjoy.

"We gave it some thought," said Schutzman. "We often forget there are 15-, 16- and 17-year-olds in foster care."

Throughout the afternoon, families toted fuzzy teddy bears and craft sets to the toy drive, and then hopped inside the Los Angeles Police Department's Mobile Command Post and slid behind the wheel of a Los Angeles Fire Department engine, parked in the lot to add fun to the day.

"There are a lot more families in a world of hurt this year," said Zev Yaroslavsky. "This year, more than ever, this program is going to be meaningful."

Carrying a pig-tailed doll and a snazzy 1965 model red Corvette in her arms, Myrtle Lou Gray of Sherman Oaks said she picked out toys that do not require batteries.

"Some kids may not have access to buy batteries," said Gray, pointing at her boxes of toys. "I picked one for a girl and one for a boy."

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