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  Christmas for All in Richmond
December 27, 2011

In the days leading up to Christmas, numerous people and organizations rallied to make sure that no children went without presents and no one went hungry. Following are some of the events that helped bring Christmas to thousands of Richmond children.

Below, the Belding Woods Neighborhood Council, led by A.J. Jelani, put on a huge Christmas eve block party with food and presents for all. I played Santa Claus and got photographed with at least 100 kids and a few parents.

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Below, my firm, Interactive Resources, put on Christmas for three Wilson School, families. Again, I got to be Santa Claus. One family just driving by while we were delivering saw me in the street and even stopped their car to have a picture taken with their son.
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Above, Santa’s elves from Interactive Resources, Mike Tran and Cameron Toler.
Below, presents before being packed up and delivered.

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Charlie Reid Christmas draws huge Richmond crowd
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Ivy Reid-Lewis, Charles Reid's last surviving child, was on hand for her father's Christmas party for the 64th consecutive year. (Robert Rogers|RichmondConfidential)
By: Robert Rogers | December 19, 2011 – 9:58 am
More than an hour before the doors would open, hundreds of children and parents were lined up in the cool Sunday morning air on 23rd Street.
Volunteers were busy unloading trucks full of Christmas gifts.
And Ivy Reid-Lewis was reminiscing.
“Those early years in North Richmond, the line would be all down the street with people waiting to come into that little clubhouse for the Christmas party,” said Reid-Lewis. “My dad loved Christmas.”
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The scene outside the first Christmas party, in North Richmond, in 1947. (courtesy Charles Reid Foundation)
A few hours later, Christmas was a little brighter for Richmond families.
More than 1,000 parents and children came to the Richmond PAL Center Sunday for a the 64th Annual Charles Reid Christmas Party, a community tradition begun in 1947 and carried on today by the Charles Reid Foundation and a handful of sponsors.
Those who attended Sunday’s event received toys, including dozens of new or barely-used bicycles, and got to spend a few precious moments with Santa Claus in the sprawling PAL Center gymnasium.
One of those who donned the Santa suit was Mike Merriweather, 51, a former NFL linebacker who has made a routine of visiting Richmond every year for the party.
“I know a lot of people opened doors for me in my life,” Merriweather said. “I just like to come out here to Richmond, see these kids, and try to give some back, to pay it forward.”
Images of the event’s legacy abounded. Several old newspaper articles and historic photos documenting the life of Charlie Reid and the early Christmas parties were prominently displayed.
Reid, a famed baseball pitcher who played for Negro league teams in the Bay Area – baseball was still segregated before World War II – launched the Christmas party in 1947. As then-49-year-old director of Shields Park in North Richmond, Reid wanted an annual event to bring the city’s burgeoning and youthful population together every Christmas. Reid loved to play Santa.
“My father was always a big advocate for children,” said Reid-Lewis, 80, the last surviving child of Charlie Reid and his wife. “He helped get a lot of kids in college over the years through sports.”
Reid died in 1979. He was 82.
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Garron Cooper, Charles Reid's great-grandson. (Robert Rogers|RichmondConfidential)
Sunday’s event was made possible by the foundation, the PAL center, and an assortment of individual, public and corporate donors, including Chevron Corp., the California Highway Patrol and Mechanics Bank.
Many of the volunteers were part of Reid’s large extended family, another legacy he left the city.
“I actually lost a little of my belief in Santa because of this event,” chuckled Garron Cooper, 24, a great-grandson of Reid’s who volunteered Sunday. “I was sitting on Santa’s lap when I was like 8 years old, and I looked real close at Santa’s face, and I was like, ‘Hey, that’s my cousin.’”
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Richmond kids ‘Shop with a Cop’
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Richmond Police Officer Anthony Diaz shops with Richmond youths. (Robert Rogers|RichmondConfidential)
By: Robert Rogers | December 17, 2011 – 3:21 pm
The kids were raring to go, some barely tall enough to see over the red shopping carts they would soon be loading with toys.
Suddenly, the sprawling Target store on Macdonald didn’t seem quite so big.
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PAL Director Larry Lewis and kids ready to hop into police cars for a ride to Target. (Robert Rogers|RichmondConfidential)
“No more pictures,” pleaded Jamonni Simon, a boisterous 9-year-old who strained to push his cart against a police officer who was letting kids go two at a time. “I need to go to the sports stuff!”
Moments later, Simon’s cart was screaming down the aisles.
About 40 local kids took home $110 worth of toys each from Target Saturday as part of the Richmond Police Department’s annual Shop with a Cop Christmas event. The event was funded by donations from the Richmond Police Officers Association, police command staff, the Crime Prevention Task force and individual officers. Target matched the $100 for each child with a 10 percent donation, and picked up the tab for the sales tax.
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Some last minute remarks before shopping. (Robert Rogers|RichmondConfidential)
“This is a great event for the kids,” said Officer Larry Lewis, executive director of the Police Activities League, which organizes the event. “They are excited.”
The day began at 9 a.m. as children as young as 8-years-old gathered at the PAL Center with more than a dozen uniformed officers.
Lt. Lori Curran chatted with children about their shopping plans, and how they would make the trip to Target, which is about one mile east on Macdonald from the PAL Center.
“Who wants to ride in a police car?” she asked. Hands shot up.
The kids filed outside to the sidewalk, where a cluster of police cruisers and two limousines waited. The procession glided down Macdonald, with the cruisers flickering their sirens to the childrens’ delight.
Once at Target, the officers, children and other volunteers posed for pictures and readied for their shopping spree.
Once they descended on the store, they rushed through the aisles to grab their goodies. Simon went for the sporting goods section right away.
Other kids went straight to the video games. Others sought new clothes.
“It’s a great event that I am happy to be a part of,” Curran said.
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Schoolchildren take home toys from 23rd Street Merchants Association
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Four children from Grant Elementary School took home toys on Tuesday. (photo by: Evelyn Xiaoqing Pi)
By: Evelyn Xiaoqing Pi | December 21, 2011 – 2:55 pm
About 2,000 Richmond and San Pablo elementary school children took home a toy each at the annual 23rd Street Merchants Association Toy Giveaway in Richmond on Tuesday.
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Richmond and San Pablo kids received toys from the 23rd Street Merchants Association. (photo by: Evelyn Xiaoqing Pi)
“We want to provide something to children whose parents might be out of work,” said Rafael Madrigal, president of the 23rd Street Merchants’ Association. “This might be the only gift they get.”
The association cooperated with elementary schools in Richmond and San Pablo to find children in need. Tickets were offered to the children chosen by the schools, and they were allowed to pick a gift from different groups of toys.
The toys were grouped by age – different toys for children 3-5, 6-8, and 9 and up – with toy cars for boys and Barbies and DIY kits for girls.
Eight-year-old Selena Ayala from Grant Elementary School picked a colorful DIY bead set. “I chose a Barbie first,” she said, “but I want to make a necklace for my mom and my sister. Merry Christmas!”
Selena stood in the line with her family and friends for about an hour before she got the toy. The line surrounded the building at Barrett and 23rd Street.
The giveaway began at 11 a.m. and ended at 1:30 p.m. The association procured 2,000 toys, each costing about $10. Sponsors include Chevron, Veolia, Mechanics Bank, and RichmondBUILD.
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Local volunteers bring ‘Christmas in Richmond’
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(photo by Callie Shanafelt)
By: Robert Rogers | December 15, 2011 – 1:00 pm
For the fifth straight year, Christmas in Richmond will serve the community.
The project, started by a local woman who came back after graduating from Howard University, serves food and gifts to hundreds in central and North Richmond on Christmas day.
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A shot of last year's festivities. (courtesy of Burgundie Spears)
“I grew up in Richmond and my mom was born and raised in North Richmond,” said Burgundie Spears, 26, who founded the project with her mother, Edna Campbell. “We feel a moral obligation to serve in our community.”
Food will be served 11 a.m.-4 p.m. at Nevin Community Center in central Richmond and at the North Richmond Senior Center. The food will be an array of turkey, dressing, greens, macaroni and cheese, candied yams, potato salad and green beans, along with dessert.
Campbell, a real estate agent in Richmond, and Spears have self-financed the project over the years, along with donations from family members, community members and area businesses.
As an informal project without tax-deductible status, Spears said it is difficult to get donations for Christmas in Richmond.
“It’s a tough economy, and people of course have a lot of other charities that they donate too also, so resources are always scarce,” Spears said.
Spears, who moved back to Richmond this year, said she expects more than 700 people at the two sites. In recent years, turnouts have been 400-600 people. The project has about 40 volunteers.
“We made a commitment, and now this has become our way of celebrating Christmas, by sharing with others,” Spears said.
To donate, volunteer or get more information on Christmas in Richmond, call (510) 932-6817 or e-mail sburgundie@yahoo.com.
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Drive provides meals, toys for needy in West Contra Costa
By Lucinda Ryan
For the Contra Costa Times
Posted: 12/15/2011 10:04:03 AM PST
Updated: 12/15/2011 10:04:04 AM PST

For the 23rd year, the Richmond and El Cerrito police and fire departments are gearing up to make the holidays a little brighter for thousands of families struggling with little or no money to buy gifts for their children or provide nourishing seasonal meals.
The police and firefighters' drive also will provide each applicant with the ingredients for a chicken dinner on Christmas. The chickens are provided by the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano counties.
The other dinner items are purchased with money donated by members of the community. The dinner includes two family-size trays each of chicken legs and thighs and a loaf of bread.
Community donations also pay for the two toys that each child, through age 12, receives. The event also includes a drawing for bicycles and helmets, with 300 to 400 children winning bikes. Santa will visit with the kids, making it an even cheerier day.
The Richmond/El Cerrito Firefighters' Toy Program works in conjunction with the Richmond Police Department's Food Basket Program and the Coronado YMCA.
The program serves residents of Rodeo, Crockett, Pinole, Hercules, San Pablo, El Sobrante, Richmond, El Cerrito, Kensington and Albany.
Richmond firefighter Rod Woods, director of the toy drive, said the big day is Dec. 22 at the YMCA, 263 S. 20th St. in Richmond.
Woods, who has been with the fire department for 25 years, said the deadline to apply for the program has passed, but there is still ample time to donate toys or money to help the 1,700 families and individuals who signed up.
Donations can be dropped off at several fire stations and special community events or mailed to Richmond/El Cerrito Fire and Police Holiday Program, 3020 El Cerrito Plaza, El Cerrito, CA 94530.
To donate online, go to www.firefighterstoyprogram.org (click on "donate" in Santa's sleigh). Mailed donations also are accepted; a form is available on the site to fill out, print and send with a contribution. Donations will be accepted through Dec. 22.
Woods said the need has grown in the past few years, to the point that "people have told us if it weren't for what we were doing, their kids would have no Christmas."
"People have a smile on their faces even when they are signing up, because they know their kids will have gifts," he said.
Though the economic downturn and poor job market have hit people especially hard the past three years, the need for help is nothing new. Woods said there is a man who has come to the event three times: once as a child with his family, then as an adult with a donation and, most recently, as a recipient to help his own family since he lost his job.
"I get attached to the program," Woods said. "It's the smiles on their faces that keep us coming back year after year to help them out."