Kmart shoppers will see some special seasonal visitors this Sunday.
Volunteers for the City of Angels Toy Run will be camped out in front of the store, kicking off their annual collection of toys, clothes, food and monetary donations for local families in need.
“We urge whoever can come out and give to come out and give,” said event organizer Felipe Rodriguez, who builds classic cars for a living.
The toy drive starts Sunday morning. Volunteers will be on scene Friday through Sunday each following weekend from morning until around 2 p.m. Toys will be dispersed on Dec. 23, as is tradition.
City of Angels accepts unwrapped toys, monetary donations, turkeys, other edible holiday treats and clothing such as undergarments, jackets and shoes.
“We don’t turn anything away. There’s always that special gift for that special kid,” said Rodriguez.
Gifts of cash will go toward purchasing items as needed the night of gift dispersal. Rodriguez said that at times in the past, funds have been used to help house families without shelter.
The drive started 13 years ago as the Low Rider Toy Run, in reference to the event’s connection with the Low Rider antique car club, of which Rodriguez is a member.
The drive changed its name nine years ago to City of Angels in honor of Brianna Lopez, who died at 6 months of age in New Mexico in 2002 as a result of child abuse. Her death sparked major changes in New Mexico laws punishing perpetrators of child abuse.
Kmart has supported the drive for the past four to five years, according to store manager David Lucero.
“We’re just opening our doors to, you know, help [Rodriguez] in any way that we can,” said Lucero.
He said that the store will offer special discounts to shoppers who donate Kmart goods to City of Angels and commented that employees often make donations.
The toy run pulls volunteers from community organizations around town, such as Adopt-a-Soldier. Various football clubs have also helped out in the past.
“We just say ‘thank you’ to anybody that comes out and donates. It’s for a good cause,” said Rodriguez.