Hundreds of Santa Barbara County children from needy families will get Christmas toys this year thanks to apprentices and contractors with NECA-IBEW Local 413, which represents electricians along the Central Coast.
On Thursday, the group donated more than $11,000 worth of toys to the Salvation Army for its annual Angel Tree program, which distributes toys to children in advance of Christmas.
In front of Best Buy on Bradley Road, apprentices and contractors with Local 413 loaded up the Salvation Army’s box with bikes, scooters, skateboards, Lego sets, drones and other toys that will be distributed to hundreds of children during the Salvation Army’s toy distribution on Dec. 21.
Electrical apprentice Austin Armenta said the donation drive was started last year when the group raised $8,300.
“This year we raised $11,350 worth of toys,” he said. “We got a range of toys, for 1- and 2-year-olds up to 12-year-olds. We ended up with 27 bikes and 35 scooters.”
Armenta said it was satisfying to know their efforts would ensure many Central Coast children from struggling families would have Christmas toys this year.
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“Growing up here in Santa Barbara County it was kind of rough to learn that so many families were going without during Christmas,” he said. “When I took this over, I made it a mission to get as many donations as I could so we could contribute Angel Tree program.”
Patricia Torres, a captain with the Salvation Army in Santa Maria, said the organization will provide toys to around 1,500 kids from the Santa Maria and Lompoc valleys this year.
Torres said it was “overwhelming” to learn how much the electrical apprentices raised for the Salvation Army.
“It’s amazing how this community just comes together,” she said. “It’s the most generous community that I’ve ever lived in. People here are so selfless and they want to give to people in need.
Torres said the organization may be able to provide three toys per child this year, rather than the usual two.
“We’re super excited,” she said. “We’re here to help a family get back on their feet and give joy to their children for Christmas. It’s just a blessing.”
Razi Syed covers Santa Maria City Government for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @razisyed