The Hot Rod Coalition put the “drive” in toy drive on Sunday December 4th, when they set up a toy drop-off in Old Town Clovis for children in Mendota.
The event encouraged all local car owners, hot rod, coupe, or minivan, to drive by the pop-up tent on Pollasky Avenue in front of Sassano’s Menswear to give a new toy to kids whose families benefit from AMOR Relief in a small farm-working community.
As a for-profit events business, the Hot Rod Coalition is not typically involved with nonprofit benefits. Founder of the Hot Rod Coalition, Anthony Granata said, “AMOR Relief was doing a toy drive on a smaller scale before us, and we just asked if we could do an organized one.”
Granata pointed out that this is not a formal event for the Hot Rod Coalition; there was no street closure, no entry fee– just visibility, and giving out of the goodness of one’s heart. Short traffic stops in the middle of Old Town Clovis to unload a few toys from a car meant that other people driving by had to stop and look.
Granata said that the Hot Rod Coalition has been supporting AMOR Relief for four years with this annual toy drive, with great turnout. Even the chance of rain wouldn’t deter them; “Rain or shine, our heart is in supporting what AMOR is doing in Mendota.”
AMOR Executive Director Davena Witcher said the AMOR Wellness Center is a twenty thousand square foot building on three acres of land in Mendota, California. Half of the building is dedicated to medical and mental health clinics, and the other half is a neighborhood resource center.
The toys will go to children who utilize the services provided by the organizations AMOR Relief hosts in their facility, like Boys & Girls Club, Girl Scouts, Centor La Familia, Head Start, and others.
The Wellness Center in Mendota is the third project AMOR has completed recently. Most of their work has been in sending aid to other countries. In Afghanistan, Witcher said, they funded a 100 bed hospital, and they have sent medical equipment and medicine to Ukraine.
Locally, the work has been much more comprehensive.
“We bring a lot of needed resources to the community,” said AMOR Community Engagement Coordinator Roxana BcBurney, “like our emergency food pantry and emergency diaper assistance.” More than food and diapers, McBurney said that the farmworker community in Mendota often don’t have access to other services, like medical care or legal assistance.
“It is a very low income community and they have a lot of barriers with getting access to essential resources,” McBurney said, for example, “They often don’t have transportation to get to the larger cities, and a lot of people walk to our center because they learned about it through word of mouth.”
At AMOR Wellness, McBurney and Witcher said, people can be connected to help from organizations like the Marjaree Mason Center, Fresno EOC, or First 5. AMOR also works with Learn4Life to provide public school education at Crescent View West Charter School.
“It’s important work, it’s highly needed,” said McBurney, “ especially when you start talking to these families, you start to understand why we’re there and the work that we’re doing.”
At the end of the drive, Granata said, “We got a 20 foot enclosed trailer full of toys.