Pulling the passenger seat belt across her lap, Alyce Brame-Galyean could barely get it fastened from where she sat under a pile of items donated to her Christmas charity.
Behind her, a wall of boxes filled with books and toys stretched to the rear door of the sport utility vehicle.
By Saturday, the boxes will be discarded, their contents wrapped and placed on tables, waiting for residents of Lakewood’s low-income Springbrook neighborhood to “shop” for Christmas.
“It’s a huge help to get these donations,” Brame-Galyean said. “We have three to four times more stuff than we did last year.”
This is the second year the Springbrook Connections holiday gift giveaway will be held at the Centerforce building at 5204 Solberg Dr. SW.
Last year, around 200 families received donated gifts and decorations.
“When you’re low-income, you have a choice: You pay your bills or you have Christmas,” said Jesse Black, president of Springbrook Connections. “This event is nothing more than being able to give to families that otherwise wouldn’t be able to have Christmas.”
When you’re low-income you have a choice: You pay your bills or you have Christmas.”
Jesse Black, Springbrook Connections president
Wedged between Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Interstate 5 on Lakewood’s east side, Springbrook is home to some of Lakewood’s poorest residents.
Isolated from the rest of Lakewood, Springbrook has no grocery store or access to services. Many residents don’t own cars, and public transit doesn’t come to the area after 7 p.m., Black said.
A handful of residents formed the Springbrook Connections group in 2014.
Black manages an apartment building in Springbrook. Brame-Galyean staffs the Food Connection mobile food truck in the neighborhood. They live in Springbrook and are two of the five founding members of the Connections group.
Last year’s holiday giveaway was pulled together quickly and with little planning. This year, other community groups have learned about it and are offering help.
The Lakewood First Lions Club gave $300, and the Lakewood Police Department gave $1,000 to the residents to buy gifts; Communities in Schools donated more than 200 books.
Diana Formoso, founder of the Lakewood nonprofit Caring for Kids, has tried to reach out to the Springbrook neighborhood for 12 years with little success, she said.
On Monday, she handed over books, coloring books and crayon sets, 1,000 stuffed teddy bears and handmade hair bows for the Springbrook event.
Formoso said it was a “huge score” to see boxes of donated items piled into Brame-Galyean’s car.
We have three to four times more stuff than we did last year.
Alyce Brame-Galyean, member Springbrook Connections
Despite the support, more gifts are needed, especially for pre-teens and teenagers. The group also could use donations of Christmas decorations and meals, Black said.
“There’s never going to be enough toys,” he said. “There are 1,200 kids in this neighborhood, and about one-third of those people are going to come to this event.”
For the families that don’t show, Black plans to use his neighborhood connections to find them and give out the remaining gifts before Christmas.
Each family is allowed one gift per child. While adults shop at the giveaway tables, children will gather in a separate room with holiday-themed crafts and a chance to meet Santa Claus.
“The fact that we’re able to pull this together with little to no money is a blessing,” Black said. “That’s how our group works. If (people) need it and we’ve got it, then we give it.”
Springbrook Holiday Gift Giveaway:
▪ To donate, contact Jesse Black at 253-279-5637 or email email@example.com, by Friday.
Other community gift drives:
▪ Allen A.M.E. Church, 1233 Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Tacoma, is holding its 26th annual toy giveaway Saturday to benefit children in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood. Event starts at 8 a.m., but people begin lining up hours before. Last year, 457 families were helped. Church phone: 253-627-6855.
▪ The University Place Presbyterian Church is taking donations for local families in need through Sunday. Pick up a gift tag for a child off the tree at the church and return it with the unwrapped gift. Volunteers are needed to help with the church’s Dec. 19 Community Christmas event, at which families will shop for the gifts. Contact Jeff Allen, 253-229-1713, or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
▪ Toys for Tots donations are being accepted until Dec. 15. Visit the website pierce-county-wa.toysfortots.org and click on “toy drop offs” to find a donation location.
▪ The YMCA of Pierce and Kitsap Counties has Giving Tree gift drives at its various locations to benefit local families and children in need. Visit a local YMCA to learn more.