The Merced Youth Council — which provides outreach to the community to increase youth involvement and engagement within the City of Merced — held a first-time, drive-through give-away event called Kits for Kids on the evening of July 3 in the parking lot of the Merced Welcome Center at 710 W. 16th Street in Merced.
The Youth Council used its funds from the City of Merced to purchase fun items for kids under the age of 12 that were placed in bags, as well as nine items that were raffled during a virtual raffle.
Mayra Lua-Reyes, public coordinator for Merced Youth Council, told the Times,
“It was meant to target younger children so they would have something to do during the pandemic since in these unpredictable times, they might have to stay home. Being home all the time can cause stress, and I think it’s helpful for children to engage in various activities to release the stress they may be feeling.
“The fun items in the kits included chalk, play dough, yo yos, coloring books, crayons, reading books, mini soccer balls and basketballs, tissues, masks, materials for blowing bubbles, Merced Youth Council water bottles and paper fans, chapstick, and pens.
“The virtual raffle consisted of seven gift cards (three for Domino’s Pizza and four for Starbucks) and two 8-inch Samsung Galaxy tablets.
“The Kits for Kids idea was originated by Kaylie Escobar-Islas, who was in charge of the virtual raffle.
“Our event was a huge success. We had a canopy set up in front of the Merced Welcome Center. The kits were on tables, and as the car approached, one person would put the bag in the trunk, and another person would describe the upcoming virtual raffle to the driver.
“There were cars that were parked in the parking lot at 5:30 p.m., although the event didn’t start until 6 p.m. Our event was supposed to be from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. We started 10 minutes early, and the event was over at 6:15 p.m. because all 50 kits had been given away.”
Those involved in organizing and putting on this great event, besides Lua-Reyes, were Lamguene Kindavong, Merced Youth Council Advisor, Kaylie Escobar-Islas, Historian, Hilda Reyes, Ex-officio, and Griselda Gonzales, Secretary.
Additional volunteers who provided support were Mylie Escobar-Islas, Gabriela Cortez, and Leticia Cortez.
Lua-Reyes told the Times, “On the Merced Youth Council Facebook page, we received great feedback such as, ‘My kids loved it’, ‘This event made my kids feel so special’, ‘That was such a great idea’, and ‘Thank you, guys, for putting this together.’
“After the give-away, we went on Facebook Live to do the virtual raffle, and we got even more positive reactions and praise by parents. Everyone was so excited about the raffle.
“One of the winners sent a message that the kids were so happy to claim their tablet prize.”
Lua-Reyes welcomes people in the community who would like to participate in Merced Youth Council.
She told the Times, “The Merced Youth Council is recruiting more members for the upcoming school year, and we hope people will want to join.
The Merced Youth Council application can be found online at: cityofmerced.com.
The Merced Youth Council meets the second Thursday of every month at 6 p.m. in the City Council Chambers at City Hall, 678 W. 18th St, Merced.
“We will be hosting our next public meeting at 6 p.m. on July 9,” Lua-Reyes said. “Members of the public, especially youth, are invited to attend and comment or ask questions on any matters of concern or interest.
“Please stay tuned on our social media accounts. Our Facebook page is Merced Youth Council, and our Twitter page is Merced Youth. We will be posting future events and community service opportunities through social media.”