As the holiday season approaches, spending time with family and buy gifts for loved ones is something we all look forward to. However, the holidays can be a hard time for some children across Berks County, which is why one Berks County business owner has stepped up to organize a toy drive.
Freddy Vasquez, owner of FXV Digital Design, created the Awesome Toy Drive in 2019. This annual event was created after Vasquez and his wife, Jill, purchased their building in May 2019. They felt the need to give back to the community, which was very welcoming and kind to them as they previously moved from New York to Pennsylvania.
“Berks County was very gracious to us and took us in like one of their own. So, I wanted to give back to them and do something great for the community” said Vasquez.
Around Christmas time in 2019, Vasquez decided to collect twenty gifts for local kids. Now, at the time, he didn’t know if he was able to give these gifts to that many kids. However, as he was involved with a networking group, he came to find out many names of kids to give gifts to. With twenty names and presents to give away, he made a tree with handmade ornaments and a Facebook video to promote his idea. From there, all the names on the tree were gone in hours.
“I called up Concern again and told them we needed more names in 2019. After that, we ended up collecting 150 gifts” said Vasquez.
The Awesome Toy Drive isn’t done without the help of Vasquez’s wife. Every year, she organizes all the children’s names and puts them on ornaments. She also makes a color-coded system for each of the different businesses, so nothing goes missing. Even with her help, Vasquez knew he needed to get his toy drive out there so the residents could learn about it. That’s when he went to local businesses owners to ask them to put trees in their stored and hang up the ornaments.
“People walk into these businesses, see the tree, grab an ornament, and bring it back with a gift. It’s an easy way to get natural traffic for the toy drive. So, we started out with six businesses in 2020, and we were able to collect 604 gifts that year” said Vasquez.
For 2022, Vasquez has 36 different businesses, all wanting to help give kids a magical Christmas. Many people don’t realize that toy drives aren’t just about getting toys. It’s about getting underprivileged kids what they really need during the holidays. Vasquez explained that some of these kids are older, they don’t want toys. They want clothes, hygiene products, backpacks, and just things that they can use every day because they don’t have access to them.
“People take things for granted” said Vasquez describing the ability to buy simple things like chapstick. “These kids can’t do that. They want the items that they actually need and a lot of the time, that’s what they ask for.”
Vasquez said this is common for the kids that are older in the foster system. They tend to be the ones that are forgotten about because they are older and they’ve been struggling for a long time. This inspired Vasquez to make sure that they also get the gifts they need because it’s the least that anyone can do.
“It’s my biggest motivation to make sure these kids are cared for and aren’t forgotten. They didn’t ask for any of this. I know this program only runs for a month, but it’s the little things that make a difference for these kids” said Vasquez.
Every year, the program is getting bigger. There are always more businesses that want to get involved. But how can you get involved with getting kids gifts? You can visit awesometoydrive.com. Other ways are to go into a local business that is involved–which can be found on their website–take an ornament, and see what the child your gifting wants.
The holidays can be a hard time for these children. It’s important to make sure that they’re not forgotten because they, too, deserve to have a wonderful Christmas and feel special that someone, somewhere thought of them.