CRENSHAW — Hundreds of children’s eyes sparkled with joy at Crenshaw High School Dec. 21 when the nonprofit organizations Developing Options and DMTL distributed more than a thousand toys during the 2019 Crenshaw Community Toy Giveaway to spread cheer over the holidays.
Excitement filled the air as dozens of gleaming new bicycles were presented as drawing prizes during the event that brought smiles on the faces of toddlers, teenagers and their families alike.
Attendees were not left hungry as Earles’s Grille, a long-time restaurant in the Crenshaw district, treated the crowd to hot dogs, chips and sodas from the popular eatery.
Children excitedly approached tables that were piled high with colorful toys.
Nathan Morales, 6, chose a brand new Razor Scooter, which elicited a broad smile.
“He was excited to win the scooter,” said his father. “He’ll probably ride it as soon as he gets home.”
Chance Gordon, 7, vigorously waved his light saber that is featured in the popular “Star Wars” movies. And Jordan Robinson, 11, tightly held on to his new Spaulding basketball.
“I’m going to save it and put it under the Christmas tree,” said Gordon, who plays for the youth football team the Crenshaw Rams.
Happily strolling through the crowd was Crenshaw High Assistant Principal Guy Quinn, who eagerly shook hands and chatted with attendees. He was gratified to see the huge turnout, estimated to be more than 700.
“This is wonderful,” he said, thanking the two organizations that sponsored the event. “It’s more than just about any one organization putting this together — it’s about unity. We’re trying to keep the community together and we’re here to bridge the gap.”
Tenth District City Councilman and Herb Wesson and Eighth District Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson were on hand for the bicycle drawings.
Wesson, in a joking mood, quipped, “Marqueece Harris-Dawson is the second coolest member of the Los Angeles City Council, but I’m the first.”
Wesson pulled out the first ticket and read three numbers. Samantha Meija, 11, had the winning ticket and happily came forward to claim her brand new bicycle. A student at John Muir Junior High School, Meija said that she was going to give the bike to her little sister, Zoey, who had just turned 2.
Wesson then read another number and Keron Smith, 9, excitedly ran forward. “Winner, winner, chicken dinner!” Wesson cried.
Smith smiled widely as he happily guided his shiny silver and lime green Huffy bike through the crowd.
“We’re very excited about this event,” said Harris-Dawson, who proudly wore a blue hoodie with the Crenshaw logo emblazoned on it. “All across South Los Angeles, churches and community organizations like Developing Options and DMTL are helping our community to do for ourselves and bringing joy to the children of South Los Angeles.”
A 9-year-old boy who called himself Lil’ Nipsey proudly showed off his new speaker, football and blue Sprayground backpack.
Lil’ Nipsey, who hopes to break into show business, said that he was a model, a dj, a rapper and a break dancer. He showed off his skills by delivering a spontaneous rap that had his mother smiling broadly and tapping her feet.
Co-sponsor of the event, Eugene Henley, also known as “Big U,” said he developed the idea for the nonprofit group Developing Options while serving 13 years in in prison. Each year, Henley holds toy drives and has established several youth mentoring programs where rappers such as T. I. and Wiz Kalifah drop by to deliver words of encouragement to the youth.
“I wanted to reach the youth so that I could help impact gang violence,” said Henley, a former gang member who grew up in South Los Angeles.
Co-sponsor Nason Buchanan, who lost several family members to violent crime in Gary,
Indiana, founded DMTL in 2005 to guide youth down the right path.
DMTL provides gang prevention and juvenile delinquency prevention as well as youth and family development services to the South Los Angeles community.
“I am grateful to the DMTL partners who believe in our mission to foster resilience and pro social behaviors so that youth and their families can become more empowered and make progressive life choices,” said Buchanan, a community relations specialist who works in the Mayor’s Office of Public Safety.
“I’m thankful that God gave me the strength to start an organization in the names of my family members who lost their lives to violent crime. Their names and legacy live on with DMTL.”
Jody Terrell from Jason’s Taco House said he was happy to donate Barbie dolls, shiny remote control cars and gleaming new bicycles to children attending the event.
“I’m from this community and we wanted to make sure that the children had a nice Christmas,” Terrell said.
Paul Evieth, senior lead officer from the Southwest Area Community Police Station was busy handing out baseball cards to a crowd of eager children.
“On one side there is a picture of a baseball player and the other side is the picture of an LAPD officer,” Evieth said.
Evieth, who works in community relations, was happy to attend the festivities.
“This is a great event. It’s wonderful and very positive,” Evieth added, who works to foster better relations between the LAPD and the local community.
Duane Earle of Earle’s Grille happily chatted with the attendees as he grilled hundreds of Hoffy
beef hot dogs and handed out chips and sodas to the hungry crowd.
“This is one of the greatest organized events that I have ever seen,” he said. “Much thanks to Developing Options, DMTL , Bear Claw, Crenshaw High and all of the staff and vendors for really and truly hosting one of the most remarkable toy giveaways ever.”
Other participants included Time Done 365 Bail Bonds, Alliance for Safety and Justice, Los Angeles Sanitation, the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles Fire Department, the Crenshaw Rams, Uneek Music and Socks, Sprayground, Council District Eight, the Gang Reduction and Youth Development program, Western Dental, ESPN, Disney and Brother II Brother.