By Mike Kinney
The spirit of giving is a Richmond tradition that kicks into high gear during the holidays.
On Saturday, a wide range of volunteers throughout the community joined city firefighters and police officers in providing gifts and groceries to roughly 500 families at the DeJean Middle School gymnasium, part of the long-running Richmond Fire & Police Holiday Drive.
The following day, about 200 motorcycle riders roared over to the Greater Richmond Interfaith Program (GRIP) shelter hauling gifts for children.
The weekend also saw the 11th annual holiday event at the family-owned Metro by T-Mobile store, and similar giveaways at North Richmond Missionary Baptist Church and the 4 Horsemen MC Bay Area Clubhouse at 1800 Seventh St. The Ronnie “Bubba” Robinson Scholarship Foundation held its 5th annual toy giveaway at Veterans Memorial Hall on 23rd Street.
“When Santa needs backup, we go hard,” said Michelle Denise Milam, a Richmond resident who serves as the city’s Crime Prevention Manager.
Santa’s many helpers
Milam was among nearly 100 volunteers taking part in the 34th Annual Richmond Police & Fire Holiday Drive, which provided toys, bikes and groceries to hundreds of local families.
The wide range of community partners involved in the holiday drive included Richmond Firefighters Local 188, the Richmond Police Officers Association, Chevron, Target, Richmond Rotary, City of Richmond staff, the Richmond Fire Youth Academy, Richmond Explorer Post 110 and others.
According to Milam, planning for the annual drive took six months and required partnerships, fundraisers, bike building, toy packing, food pickups and deliveries. “Many sleepless nights” made it happen, Milam said, adding, “But it’s all worth it to see the smiles on everyone’s faces.”
Milam noted it was heartwarming to see public safety folks who had just completed overnight shifts volunteering at the giveaway.
Interim Fire Chief Michael Williams called the partnership between the public safety agencies “amazing.”
“It was a great time for everybody there that day,” he said.
Bikers give to GRIP
On Sunday, a collection of Santa’s loudest helpers made their annual holiday visit to GRIP, located at 165 22nd St. Over 200 bikers representing local motorcycle clubs stopped in to deliver gifts for children served by the nonprofit. They’ve been doing this for 10 years, GRIP Program Director Mamusiu Tuibailala said.
The effort is a partnership involving the California United Motors Vehicles Coalition Steering Community, California Motorcycle Safety Program and Bikers Rights Organization of Contra Costa County.
Preacher, the VP of the Red Nation motorcycle club, said he and his members “look forward to bringing joy and happiness to these children during the holiday season.”
Community activist and volunteer Antwon Cloird said he’s amazed at the level of compassion in the community.
“It’s a blessing to see all these people out here giving back to our community,” Cloird said from GRIP headquarters. “they have the streets blocked off around the whole building so we could share the Christmas spirit and love with our children and our broader community.”
On Saturday, the family-owned Metro by T-Mobile in Richmond held its 11th annual toy giveaway from its store at 12800 San Pablo Ave. (near Esmond Ave.).
During the event, children and their families had their photo taken with Santa Claus and an elf. Each child received a toy from Santa. Kids also enjoyed face painting and free balloons.
“This is our way during the Christmas season to say thank you to all of customers,” business owner Ian Taha said.
Rosie Allen and her two girls were delighted by the event.
“It is so wonderful that Metro by T-Mobile does this each year helping out families who are going through hard times,” Allen said.
More giving to come
The spirit of giving will continue throughout the holiday, including this coming Wednesday, Dec. 20, thanks in part to Noel John Bell of Noble Cinema Studios. In partnership with CPMC, Noble raised funds to purchase more than 230 toys for children in need.
Parents and guardians are invited to bring their child to Barrett Terrace Plaza Apartments at 700 Barrett Ave. in Richmond at 2 p.m. Wednesday.