By Mike Kinney
After 71 consecutive years, the Charles Reid Foundation Christmas Party hasn’t skipped a beat.
Over 650 attendees received toys and clothing during the annual giveaway on Sunday at the Richmond Police Activities League center at 22nd Street and Macdonald Avenue. Santa handed out scooters, toy cars, dolls, soccer balls and more.
A popular playground director at Shields Reid Park in North Richmond, the late Charles Reid first launched and sponsored the annual party in 1947, when he started handing out stockings with food items to neighborhood kids. It grew from there to become an annual tradition.
After Reid’s death, family members continued the event until it was transferred into a charitable trust foundation by Charles Reid’s grandson, Todd Lewis, according to organizer Claudia Lewis. The foundation’s board members and many volunteers now carry the torch.
The event is funded by corporate and private sponsors, notably Chevron, which has been a major donor since the beginning. Other major sponsors include Stifel Nicolaus, Mechanics Bank and Richmond PAL, which provides its facility to hold the party.
While the thrill of giving hasn’t changed, some of the toys have. One of the more popular gifts given away were scooters. Dozens of smiling young people toted shiny new scooters from the RPAL building.
As the Charles Reid Foundation works closely with the NFL Players Association, most Santas are retired football players, Claudia Lewis said.
“Some have attended the event when they were kids and now go full circle by being Santa,” she said.
One parent, Maria, said she’s grateful that her kids can have a great Christmas thanks to the foundation’s efforts.
“Many parents said that it was important that their children have a good Christmas season and all agreed how important the toy giveaway was to their families and the community,” she said.