By Amanda Mayberry
Bringing holiday cheer, food and entertainment to underprivildeged children, the East Los Angeles College Softball team will be playing the role of Santa Claus every year. The softball team will host the 5th Annual Gift and Food Drive on Tuesday at 4 p.m.
All who wish to donate can turn in donations at the women’s gym located behind the technology center or in various offices throughout campus. Food and gifts should be donated by Monday. The team began hosting this annual event five years ago when head coach Erika Blanco took over the team.
Every year, between 40-60 families, mostly single mothers and their children, come to the basketball gym from the East Los Angeles Women’s Center to collect a box of food as well as gifts from Blanco and the girls.
Families also get to eat, listen to music, play games and the children even receive a visit from Santa Claus. Blanco said the event is a lot of fun for the kids as well as the girls on the team. “When I first started coaching, I wanted to start a tradition,” said Blanco, “I decided to do this because all year, we think about ourselves so I thought this is a good time to give back.”
But during the holidays isn’t the only time Blanco and her team give back to the community. They also volunteer at the Monterey Park Boys and Girls Club throughout the year. “They actually contacted us and asked if we would like to help out and we agreed,” Blanco said.
If that isn’t enough, Blanco and her team also host a Boys and Girls Club softball clinic at the beginning of the year. For about three hours, the team interacts with children, teaching them softball and answering related questions. The team plans on hosting their next Softball clinic within the first few weeks of January.
One team member, Britney Garcia, outfielder, who joined the team in summer of 2010, said she attended the Boys and Girls Club when she was younger. She said her nine year old sister also attends the Boys and Girls Club, and even attended the last softball clinic the team held. “She liked it,” Garcia said of her sister’s experience at the clinic.“It feels like we’re blessed to help out those who may be a little less fortunate,” she said.
Another team member, Samantha Martinez, who joined the team in summer, said she too likes the volunteer work she does on the team. “It’s exciting helping kids and the community,” Martinez said. “They are amazing,” Blanco said of the team and their participation in the volunteer work.