Toy drive for Bay Area farmworker families off to slow start

The beginning of May brings with it the start of the farming season in many parts of Northern California. But many of the families that perform this work have been hit especially hard, by the COVID pandemic, to inflation, to outbreaks of violent crime.

To help these families meet their needs, Tuesday, a week-long toy drive started in San Jose. The drive was supposed kick-off a sizable toy donation drive for the children of area farmworkers. But instead, it’s a slow start, that could adversely impact its finish by week’s end.

"The children come and they have nothing. Ah, and so we’d like to give them something in Summer. People always ask, ‘why are you doing a Summer toy drive instead of at Christmas?’  but for them, they have no toys at all or anything to play with," said Darlene Tenes, founder of the Farmworker Caravan.

She said drives such as this started during the COVID pandemic. But over the years, large turnouts have shrunk, while the need has increased.

Months of inclement weather, flooding, and large-scale violence, has adversely affected the overall farming community.

"We’re asking people to donate to people who put food on our table," said Araceli Gonzales, division director for Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County. "I really feel like they don’t think there’s a need. But there definitely is."

Whatever toys that are donated will be delivered to Catholic Charities for distribution Friday. Gonzales said food baskets are also part of the mix, as many families need the basics too.

"And we’re seeing 1,100 families in two hours. Giving them food, and there’s so many new people coming, four years after the pandemic," she said.

Officials from both the Farmworker Caravan, and Catholic Charities, are asking anyone who can help, to do so, by donating basic essentials, and toys, to farmworker families.

"We want educational toys and STEM toys. And like Frisbees and bubble-blowers, and water guns, things like that," said Tenes. Added Gonzales, "Each family usually brings anywhere from two-to-three kids. That’s 300 kids. I don’t have 300 toys, to give (one) for each child…I need people to donate toys, yes."

The donation drive continues Wednesday and Thursday from 9a.m. to 5p.m. at the United Youth Center in San Jose.

Jesse Gary is a reporter based in the station's South Bay bureau. Follow him on Twitter, @JesseKTVU and Instagram, @jessegontv