When Jennifer Johnson worked as a Starbucks manager in Atwater she found a great way to give back to the community in the annual Santa Day Toy Drive event sponsored by the local division of the California Highway Patrol and friends.
So when Johnson became the new manager of the Starbucks on 16th Street in Merced this year, the event — and the spirit of giving — just naturally followed her.
Now it its 11th year, Santa Day is made possible by Starbucks, the CHP, Matt Migliazzo and his company MIG-M Construction, the Merced SWAT and Bomb Squad teams, Envy Fine Clothing in Atwater, El Dorado Taqueria in Fresno, local U.S. Army recruiters, the Valley Vintage Car Club, and many individual volunteers.
“Every year it grows and grows,” Johnson said during this year’s event held last Saturday. “We really appreciate all the community support.”
Gift donations and proceeds from vendors all go to help make Christmas brighter for local children living across Merced County. This year, there was an extra focus on young teens who can get overlooked in seasonal toy drives, organizers said. Some of the donations will go to support efforts by CASA of Merced County, the Boys & Girls Club of Merced County, and the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
Before the event, CHP Officer Eric Zuniga said they had raised some $4,000 in cash donations, and that didn’t include tons of toys donated this holiday season, particularly on Santa Day.