Books open up new worlds to the reader — especially important for our kids after their experiencing nine months of shelter-in-place distance learning from home. For the past several years, the holiday season has meant it was time for the Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN) book giveaway at lead agency MEDA’s Plaza Adelante neighborhood center, with the goal of distribution of much-needed items for the season. With COVID-19 still in our midst, MPN and valued partners knew they had to pivot. The result? A reimagined “Sixth Annual Holiday Book Giveaway” still took place last Friday, much to the delight of low-income Latino and immigrant families.
In-kind donations of books
First up was the garnering of in-kind donations of books, with 1,600 collected. There were stories about emotions, especially critical during the stressful crisis. Books celebrating immigrant neighborhoods, such as the beloved “Mi Papi has a Motorcycle.” And many more books popular with our kids young and old.
A trio of donors — all part of the annual event for the prior five years — again stepped up to the plate. Tandem, Partners in Early Learning contributed 800 books, while Children’s Book Project donated 500 and the San Francisco Public Library added 100 more to the total. There were even some books donated by community members and friends of MPN staff. Additionally, this year featured a generous donation from San Francisco philanthropist Leagrey Dimond, whose laudable efforts during the pandemic have already translated to on-the-ground support to best help families weather the economic crisis (blog). Ms. Dimond has always loved books; she even owned a popular bookstore in the city for many years. Knowing of the need, Ms. Dimond made an in-kind donation of 175 books for our kids, so that they could have presents for the holidays.
In addition to books, gift bags included numerous age-appropriate items: board games, such as vocabulary cards; memorization tools; puzzles; school supplies, ranging from crayons to colored pencils to notepads; and holiday baking kits for high schoolers. For the parents, Ms. Dimond again came through, acting as liaison for the sub-granting of 200 personal-care kits from The Hispanic Star, part of a Procter & Gamble program through nonprofit ALAS.
Second was logistics: This meant figuring how to safely disburse 189 gift bags, with the bulk in the 94110 and 94103 ZIP codes that comprise MPN’s footprint. Other MPN families lived outside the footprint, but had kids attending schools in the Mission. In all, seven delivery routes were delineated. Staff were able to catch a glimpse of where families are hunkering down during the pandemic, from visiting neighborhoods that have been historically neglected of resources to new affordable developments housing some of our MPN families who are fortunate enough to have won the City’s below-market-rate (BMR) apartment lottery.
To determine recipients, family success coaches identified five to 10 families most in need — families with whom they engage at the nine MPN schools, Felton Family Developmental Center and 13 family child care sites that provide 120 infant/toddler and preschool-age children quality care and education. Staff registered each family by identifying the number of children in the household and their age/grade.
The socially distanced idea was for masked team members to ring bells and drop off the gift bags at the doorstep. No easy task, with 305 kids excitedly waiting on the routes and with only a two-hour delivery window. Thanks to District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen’s staffers, who were a great help with the distribution of the bags.
The good news this year was the San Francisco Public Library additional donation of 200 books earmarked for students at Cesar Chavez Elementary School for their annual read-a-thon, whereby students can win prizes for the most books read over the winter break. Parents safely picked up these books at the school, with grade levels from kindergarten to fifth grade and titles in both English and Spanish.
Not letting the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic deter them, the MPN team was honored to still be able to help our families in need during this season of giving.
As the gift bags were delivered, parents and kids alike beamed with delight: A true present not just for these families, but for the MPN team itself.