SEIU 1021

Coat & toy drive brightens the holidays for thousands of local kids in need
The partnership with Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao and other unions met its goal for this year’s toy drive to double donations and the number of children served.


Spirits were high today at the Oakland SEIU 1021 union hall – a.k.a. “Santa’s Workshop” – as dozens of volunteers and staff greeted hundreds of families in need with hot cocoa, cookies, hot lunch, and gifts galore. Intermittent rain throughout the day could not dampen the holiday cheer as kids’ eyes lit up at the array of toys.

Thanks to the generosity of SEIU 1021 members, Mayor Sheng Thao, our labor partners at SEIU 2015 and IFTPE Local 21, community organizations, and local companies, East Bay children got to choose from thousands of new coats, toys, and other gifts.

SEIU 1021 Vice President of Representation Sandra Lewis, who spearheaded the union’s fifth annual toy drive alongside East Bay Vice President Yeon Park, described the reactions of the parents she’d been calling to let them know they had been selected to receive gifts from the coat and toy drive. “Some of them literally cried and told me that if not for this, they wouldn’t have had Christmas this year. That’s why we do this.”

“There is a lot of need in our community,” said Yeon Park. ”Every kid deserves to be able to stay warm and to get something special at the holidays. We’re thrilled at the response we received to our requests for donations.”

Families moved from check-in to a huge tent filled with toys for kids of all ages to holiday music, then enjoyed burritos from Cinco Tacos (and hot dogs fresh off the grill for the kids), before moving inside the union hall to take photos with Santa and pick out coats.

The Oakland Fire Department even brought a fire truck for the kids to climb on as they exited Santa’s Workshop.

Last year, we filled one school bus with toys. This year, we doubled our goal to fill two school buses, and requested donations of coats to provide families in need with something long-lasting and needed for the winter ahead. Our members and communities rose to the challenge, with thousands upon thousands of toys and 1300 coats donated.