Mayra Amezcua recalls one Christmas as a little girl where she and her older sister, Angelica, were crying and jumping up and down because they unexpectedly received presents from a family they did not know.
Mayra, a 20 year-old liberal studies major, said she and her sister Angelica, 22, are CSUN students who come from a working class family.
“I know how it feels to receive a gift that you didn’t expect and I want to make them (children) feel the same way,” Mayra said.
MEChA de CSUN’s mentorship program, Kalpulli is spearheading MEChA’s toy drive this year, she said.
All the toys donated and money raised will eventually go to North Valley Caring Services, a non-profit organization in North Hills dedicated to helping families, Angelica said.
Services at North Valley include English classes for parents, pre-school for their children and an after-school program for older children.
Collections will be in MEChA’s office, located in Jerome Richfield 114 and it will end on Dec. 14. That day, a group of MEChA students will go to North Valley to help 6 to 12 year olds and a few older students with their homework in the after-school program, Angelica said.
After an hour of studying, MEChA members will interact and play games with the children and provide food. At the end, they will pass out presents and break a piñata, Angelica added.
“For me, it’s not just about the toys, it’s about the children,” Mayra said. “The center is located in a bad neighborhood where children are at risk of being involved in gangs and violence. (CSUN) students can go and help the kids at the center.”
MEChA was more active with North Valley two years ago but took a break last year to focus on MEChA, Angelica said.
The idea to get involved with North Valley crossed Angelica’s mind a couple years ago while she was taking a CSUN course. The class required students to perform community service, she said.
Angelica decided to do her community service at North Valley after the non-profit’s director came to her classroom and introduced the program.
She said she remembers bringing her sister and a friend to North Valley, where three little girls would run up and hug them.
“The children are humble,” Angelica said. “They really care, they really appreciate it.”
She said she then went to MEChA and proposed they get involved with the non-profit.
“It made us feel very good and very appreciative,” Angelica added. “We were helping students when we got to go. It’s as if you were helping your little brother or sister.”
Angelica also brought in the non-profit’s director to once more give a presentation, she added.
“That’s when people got encouraged and started volunteering there,” Angelica said. “This was not mandatory. It was their own decision to come and help out.”
Carolina Alcala, who has been involved with MEChA since last year, is one of the student volunteers for the Dec.14 event.
Alcala, 21, art major, has been involved in toy drives since she was in high school.
“A lot of children are not fortunate enough to have something given to them during Christmas,” Alcala said. “My favorite part is seeing them happy and just receiving something.”
Alcala said it is a great way of giving back to the students and to the community.
“They are our community,” Alcala said. “They are our future. It’s just about giving back to the kids.”
Alcala said that even if CSUN students cannot donate to the toy drive, it is a good place to start performing community service.