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Mia Marquez helps Santa hand out goodie bags for the children of families who came through Sure Helpline's drive-thru toy distribution on Wednesday, Dec. 22 in El Centro. | KATHERINE RAMOS PHOTO

Sure Helpline Center Toy Drive Grows in 2nd Year

Assembly member Garcia, Dragon Bikers MC, Other Help Gather 500 Toys for Valley Families, Kids

EL CENTRO — With visits from an Assembly member, a biker club, and enough toys to serve 500 children, the second annual Sure Helpline Center’s drive-thru toy drive and giveaway brightened the winter season for many families of Imperial County on Wednesday morning, Dec. 22.

Inspired by the toy drives of other agencies, Sure Helpline founder Margaret Sauza wanted to do something for the families her organization serves, so she and her employees donated gifts out their own pocket. Together, they were able to give more than 300 gifts, she said.

Margaret Sauza, founder of Sure Helpline Center, hands off a bag of supplies and talks to one of the mothers who came through the Sure Helpline toy distribution on Wednesday, Dec. 22 in El Centro. | KATHERINE RAMOS PHOTO

“We are very happy that we are able to do this for the community,” Sauza said of last year’s giveaway. “We saw that other agencies were doing this, because of COVID, que no money, the people are going to need the money to eat. So, if we could some joy, we are.”

This year, however, things have been different. Donations came in from several organizations around the Valley and ensured that Sure Helpline had enough toys for 500 children. At least 100 cars lined up in downtown El Centro for a present and a chance to see Santa Claus.

All presents were arranged by age from zero to 12. Santa and his little helpers handed out candy bags while volunteers from Dragon Bikers Motorcycle Club passed the bags of presents to tiny waiting hands in the vehicles.

Assembly member Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella, made an appearance as well.

Some families even got out of their cars so the children, with huge smiles, could give Santa hugs.

Several agencies donated gifts and toys to the center, including El Centro Motors, El Centro Regional Medical Center, El Centro City Council member Edgard Garcia, and Dragon Bikers MC, who brought in a truckload of toys.

“We decided to do the same thing that we learned in our (mother) chapter in Mexicali,” club Vice President Tommy Robles said. “They go to orphanages, buy food and toys, give them rides around the neighborhoods, so we can put a smile on their faces.”

Dragon Bikers MC member “Chuck-e” passes a bag of presents into a car during Sure Helpline’s drive-thru toy distribution on Wednesday, Dec. 22 in El Centro. | KATHERINE RAMOS PHOTO

Assembly member Garcia delivered a donation of a couple hundred toys from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

“We are excited to be contributing to this cause today,” the Assembly member said. “We have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for the work that comes out of Sure Helpline.”

All to help families of the Imperial Valley in crisis.

Sure Helpline Center works to help provide aid to victims of violence in the Imperial Valley and provide education and awareness that can prevent more incidents of violence.

Jorge and Victoria Benavides were excited to see Santa and get a picture with him during Sure Helpline’s second annual toy drive and distribution on Wednesday, Dec. 22 in El Centro. | KATHERINE RAMOS PHOTO

The organization provides confidential, 24-hour crisis intervention, information, and referral services to people regardless of age, sex, religion, national origin, or disability.

Sauza has seen much during all her years working at the center and says her heart breaks when she thinks about all the women who have come through the center’s doors in distress. The center has about two women and their families come in each day, women who are running from violence or have been kicked out of their homes.

Sauza said she hopes Wednesday’s event can bring a bit of joy to their lives.

“We see a lot of depression, a lot of hurt, so if we can bring this little happiness, it means a lot to Sure Helpline,” she said.

Sure Helpline Center will continue to give gifts even after the holidays if anyone asks.

Hundreds of toys were handed out to families in need on Wednesday, Dec. 22 by Sure Helpline Crisis Center staff and volunteers and other groups on Wednesday, Dec. 22 in El Centro. | KATHERINE RAMOS PHOTO
Sure Helpline founder Margaret Sauza (center) and staff and volunteers pose with Assembly member Eduardo Garcia (just right of Suaza, in back) during Sure Helpline’s second annual toy drive and distribution on Wednesday, Dec. 22 in El Centro. | PHOTO COURTESY OF ASSEMBLY MEMBER GARCIA
Assembly member Eduardo Garcia (center) poses with Santa and members of Dragon Bikers Motorcycle Club during Sure Helpline’s second annual toy drive and distribution on Wednesday, Dec. 22 in El Centro. | PHOTO COURTESY OF ASSEMBLY MEMBER GARCIA
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