LMC gives back for the holidays

Gift drive returns after two years of inactivity


Michael Benedian, Editor-in-Chief

The season of giving is almost here and Los Medanos College is getting a head start for the holidays. Thursday, Dec. 8 marks the last day that all LMC employees can participate in the Holiday Gift Drive and donate gifts for children ages two to 12. The gifts have to be unwrapped, appropriate and given to Eileen Valenzuela in the Office of Instruction. 

This is LMC’s 32nd year of collecting toys for children and is also the first time in two years of not being able to due to the pandemic. Carissa Craig, the Extended Opportunity Program and Services director, looks forward to seeing people participate and the children receiving their gifts.

This is my first year as the EOPS director and the first time I have been involved in the toy drive, but I am extremely excited to be part of it!” she said.

The gifts will be given out to all EOPS students and their children just in time for the holidays. The gifts will also be given out during “Friendsgiving,” another event in which the Student Union and Basic Needs collaborate with EOPS to give away Thanksgiving baskets full of supplies to families. 

In order to get a sense of how many gifts will be given, a survey was sent out to EOPS students asking how many children they have, their ages and if they are a boy or girl.

“The goal for this drive is to make sure that a gift is given to the children of all EOPS parents,” Craig said. “We received over 75 responses so far and hope to give them out to students who signed up in December.”

Valenzuela started helping out with the drive back in 1987 and at the time, an organization called Grannies Anonymous received all the gifts. After the organization disbanded, the gifts were then donated to the Salvation army for their Angel Tree.

“We used to have a Christmas tree with paper angels on it for employees to pick a gender and age to donate a gift to,” Valenzuela said. “We no longer have a tree and over the years, the drive morphed into an email (and an article in the Experience) asking for help. 2019 was the first year we collaborated with EOPS/CARE programs.”

According to Valenzuela, over 100 items are donated to the children every year that the drive happened. The first donation has already been received by her and she expects to see more soon.

Adjunct professor Lorrain Biles has participated in this holiday gift drive since it started back in the 90’s. It’s been a tradition for her to donate a basketball in honor of her late father Lloyd Leith.

“My father was a physical education teacher and basketball coach in the San Francisco Unified School District, for over 30 years,” Biles said.

She describes her father as a well respected man for his winning seasons in coaching and his honesty as a referee. After Leith retired from teaching, he became a scout for the NBA referees on the west coast, where he would write reports on referees and their calls and send it back to the NBA commissioner. He was posthumously inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, as the first referee inductee.

“In honor of his legacy I wanted to keep his tradition alive by gifting a basketball to a child in need,” Biles said.

The holiday gift drive is a great way to give back to the young generation and to spread joy.

“I think that even though we should be helping others throughout the year, the holidays seem to be the time that folks help others,” Valenzuela said. “Collaborating with the EOPS/CARE program and helping our students is a good thing and hopefully puts everyone in a giving mood and spirit.”