By Ronald Penh
The season of giving has not been thwarted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Gardena Police Officers’ Association along with the Gardena Police Foundation teamed up to hand out gift cards and toys to families on Wednesday, Dec. 23 in front of the Gardena Police Department.
Gardena police detective Luis Villanueva along with Craig Ball, dressed as Santa Claus, handed out to each family a $150 or $200 Target gift card and a toy while randomly selected families won an additional gift card to Food 4 Less.
Families were scheduled to arrive one by one at the Gardena Police Department to receive their gift cards and toys.
For Marianne Dyogi, junior high teacher and recipient of the giveaway, she set her family up for a surprise. She didn’t tell her family why they needed to go to the police department or what was going on.
“My husband was like ‘Do we have to dress up? What’s going on?’” Marianne shared.
“When we went up there, they noticed that Santa was in the truck,” Marianne said. “It was a really nice surprise.”
Karla Lorenzo, market manager and recipient of the giveaway, was grateful for the donations.
“Honestly, I think it’s super generous of them to do this especially with everything going on,” Lorenzo said. “I truly appreciate them acknowledging the fact that our community does need help.”
Luckily for Lorenzo, one of the toys she got was a Barbie doll, which her oldest daughter, Jeanine Ponce, 9, loves. Her younger daughter, Jenna Ponce, 4, received a pack of playdough.
The families were selected by elementary schools in Gardena. The students of the families were selected based on financial assistance or if they have been an outstanding student, Villanueva shared. The elementary schools that selected students for the giveaway include Purche Avenue, Chapman, 156th Street, 153rd Street, Amestoy, Denker, Maria Regina, St. Anthony of Padua, and Pacific Lutheran.
Councilmembers Paulette Francis, Art Kaskanian, and Rodney Tanaka also made recommendations for individuals to be recipients of the giveaway.
The giveaway event that usually takes place during this time of the year is Shop with a Cop and the Needy Family giveaway. Due to COVID-19 health protocols, those events did not take place in which this family giveaway was the charity event that transpired instead.