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Amazon’s payload of goodies delivers smiles

Kids smiled, pointed and giggled with anticipation Monday afternoon in Newark as they approached a bright blue semi-truck filled with donated toys and gifts from Amazon.
Through Amazon’s community engagement campaign called “Delivering Smiles,” large trucks stop and drop a payload of goodies in 33 places around the country near the company’s fulfillment centers and other offices during December.
This holiday season, the League of Volunteers — a Newark-based nonprofit that has supported low-income residents in the Tri-City and beyond for decades — received a boost from the online retail and tech giant in the form of $15,000 worth of donations to distribute to families.
The Newark Community Center was the first stop for the truck, not too far from where Amazon has a 574,000-square-foot sorting center in the city. Amazon selected the League because of its reputation for doing good.
“We saw the great work they were doing in the city of Newark, and it led us to look at them and saw the opportunity it provided for us to really show our spirit and caring,” Scott Sharp, Amazon’s site lead at the Newark facility, said Monday.
“We’re able to give the help and we look forward to doing it,” he added.
The League, also known as LOV, runs an annual holiday program called “Adopt-A-Family,” where families in need can sign up to receive gifts and food for the holidays. It’s supported by others who either shop for the families and drop off gifts or donate to the charity.
Sharon Slayton, program and development director for the League, said because of Amazon’s support, about 250 families will benefit this year, as will some local shelters and foster homes.
She said it’s important to change perceptions of people who need assistance and to avoid passing judgment.
“These are not those stereotypes of people that need things, these are families where someone got sick, someone lost their job, those types of situations,” she said.
“If you can help these families pay one bill, by helping to support their holiday needs, then they’re going to pay that bill and feel better about themselves,” Slayton said. “Those things really affect people’s ability to bounce back and jump back into society when they’ve experienced issues and problems.”
Rowena Cowan, of Fremont, said it was hard to ask for help during the holidays because she and her husband were accustomed to providing for their family. But when her husband suddenly lost his job of 15 years before Thanksgiving, it put them in a financial bind.
“It’s really difficult, but sometimes you’ve got to swallow your pride for your kids, and you’ve got to say ‘We need the help,’ ” she said. “I’m really grateful for this program.”
Her 9-year-old son Maxwell had picked out a 3D-printing pen when an Amazon volunteer took him and other kids to tour an area of the center filled with gifts. Maxwell also picked out a gift for his older sister.
Santa also was at the event, taking photos with families while a local youth choir and a string quartet provided musical entertainment.
Paulina Arreola, 16, of Union City, who attended the event with her younger siblings and mother, said picking out gifts for themselves was a fun experience.
“Since we’re kind of low-income, we never really get actual gifts,” she said. “It never really feels like Christmas, because we never really expect much. I know my parents try but it’s kind of hard.
“I’m really happy that this exists for people like us and others,” she said.
Shirley Sisk, the League’s executive director, said she was “thrilled to death” when she heard Amazon would be donating to its program.
“We couldn’t do what we do without the support of the community” and other local businesses, she said.
“Look at it, this is amazing, just amazing,” Sisk said as local Amazon volunteers loaded bikes, dolls, headphones, board games, bedding sets and more into the center.
“The children are going to have such a wonderful Christmas. One they’ll never forget,” she added.
If you need assistance or want to support the League of Volunteers, you can visit lov.org for more information.

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