Toy Bank’s 26th annual event was held at Paso Robles Event Center

PASO ROBLES — More than 500 families received some help for Christmas at the 26th annual Day of Giving on Saturday, Dec. 12, at the Paso Robles Event Center.

“For me right now, this is very important because I am only working two days a week,” said Mayra Calderon of Paso Robles. “It’s been a little rough this year. This is a blessing.” 

The free event is organized each year by the Toy Bank of Greater Paso Robles with lots of help from the community. Due to COVID-19 guidelines, this year’s Day of Giving was held inside the spacious Adelaide Hall.

“All of the people that have been coming in have been super thankful,” said Amanda Bean, who is the Day of Giving Coordinator and co-chair of the Toy Bank board. “They understand that this is a weird year, and it’s not always going to be like this. People have been very gracious and understanding that things are different this year. Luckily everyone is rolling with it.”

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Bean, 29, said when the planning began months ago, safety was their top priority.

“We all agreed that if we could keep everyone safe, we would put the extra work in to make sure that it happened, and I think we’ve done that,” Bean said.

The Toy Bank provides toys, games, playground balls, stuffed animals, books, arts and crafts at the Day of Giving. Everything is donated by event sponsors and the community or purchased with money donated by residents and businesses.

“People were just super generous this year,” said Toy Bank board co-chair Maribeth Bonomi. “Super, super generous. I felt like people understand we all have a need right now and everybody is sensitive to it.” 

The Hall allowed the seven overflowing toy stations to be spaced out. Thousands of unwrapped name-brand toys were organized on tables by gender and age. One or two volunteers crewed each station when the first families came in at 8 a.m. and through to the last family scheduled at about 3 p.m.

Families with children in Paso Robles, San Miguel, Shandon, Bradley, and Heritage Ranch receive toys, clothes and gift cards at the Day of Giving. Libby Lemm and her husband Rollie started the local Toy Bank and the Day of Giving.

Officially 545 families signed up for the Day of Giving in Paso Robles, an all-time high and equates to just under 1,200 children benefitting. 

“We have a lot more families than we did last year, Bean said. “We’ve had a lot more new families this year, which is good for us. We are just glad that people were able to find us and that we were able to find them.”

Families had to pre-register online and received an email or text with a specific time to show up at the Paso Robles Event Center.

Once they arrived, they waited in their car until they were called or texted to walk to the front of the Adelaide Hall. 

Only one person per family could enter the Hall. Only 10 families were allowed in the Hall at one time. Each person in the Hall was required to wear a mask and gloves and sign paperwork before entering. Each person’s temperature was taken.

Inside, they went from table to table based on their children’s age and gender and pointed out gifts that volunteers gathered and put into their oversized plastic bags.

In addition to the toys, stuffed animals and family games, the Salvation Army provided grocery gift cards to families.

After exiting the building, they disposed of the gloves and walked to their vehicle.

Overall, Bonomi and Bean agreed the event went well and the changes led to a less frenetic pace than in past years.

“It feels very safe. Everything is easy and organized, and there are lots of choices,” Bonomi said. “It feels really good. People are really happy. This is kind of nice, actually. You have some room to move. It’s a good day.”

It has been a tough year for many people, and the Toy Bank was grateful to be doing the Day of Giving again.

“You can’t see them smiling, but there have been a lot of thank-yous and Merry Christmases,” Bean said. “People have been excited. It’s nice to have something semi-normal even though it’s different.”

The Toy Bank accepts donations year-round. People can donate online at prtoybank.org or send a check payable to Toy Bank of Greater Paso Robles, P.O. Box 2801, Paso Robles, CA 93447. For more information, visit www.prtoybank.org.