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Santa Monica Police Activities League’s annual toy wrap party

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By Hector Gonzalez
Staff Writer

December 16, 2014--Third-grader Judah Gardner went straight for the cars and games he’d like to get for Christmas, picking out presents from a stack during the Santa Monica Police Activities League’s annual toy wrap party Monday night at Santa Monica Place.

“He’s picking out all the toys he likes,” said his mom, Lilly Ng, who learned about the even through Judah’s school,  PS 1 Pluralistic School in Santa Monica. “He’s only picking from the boy’s pile.”

About 60 volunteers from Santa Monica PAL,  the Santa Monica Police Department, Bloomingdale’s and other retailers crowded into a community room at the shopping center Monday evening to wrap gifts that will be given out next week to children at PAL’s  youth center, 1471 Olympic Boulevard.

The volunteers worked quickly, wrapping and stringing ribbons around hundreds of toys in about two hours.

This year, PAL and its partners collected enough toys through the organization’s annual Holiday Best  Ever Gift Drive to put smiles on the faces of about 300 children, organizers said.

The children, who are from low-income families, attend PAL’s after-school programs or were referred by local schools, said toy wrap organizer Eula Fritz of PAL.

“We have more families that come every year,” said Fritz. “Every year it gets bigger, but we’re fortunate to have a lot of resources and a lot of people who are willing to help.”

This was the third year that Cecelia Montes participated in the gift drive, she said.  Her mother works at Santa Monica Place, she said, “and every year I ask her if I can get the PAL’s wish list so I can buy a toy for a child,” she said.
This year, she bought a scooter for the toy drive.

“The children write a letter to Santa, and they write three things that they want,” said Montes. “It’s fun to see what they write. It’s very cute.”

Also wrapping toys at a table was Santa Monica police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks.

“This event is a wonderful opportunity for a number of facets of the community to come together for the purpose of giving to those families who might not ordinarily have the Christmas that we believe they’re entitled to,” said Seabrooks.

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