Vallejo Times Herald
December 18, 2020
Christmas without toys is like … well, it’s like Christmas without toys, which is
why about 165 parents or grand-parents waited several hours to snag precious gifts
at Faith Food Fridays.
“I think it means the world,” said Assemblyman Tim Grayson, back for his third year
volunteering at the toy and Christmas food box giveaway.
“With what we’ve gone through, our emotions are at the edge. We are absolutely COVID
burned out,” continued Grayson. “I think it’s going to mean all the difference to
be able to have food on the table. Even the smallest little gift in a child’s hands
means all the difference.”
Adults of all ages and colors stretched up the block Friday from the 826 Solano Ave.
site, patiently awaiting their turn.
Minutes before the distribution began at around 10:45 a.m., Faith Food Fridays director
Benjamin Buggs got on a megaphone, shouting instructions to handful of volunteers
before closing with a brief prayer.
“Busy, busy, busy … ho, ho, ho,” Buggs smiled later. “We’re having a great day. There
are long lines, but that’s OK. That’s what we want. We want everybody to get something
for the holidays.”
Yes, Buggs said, COVID has stretched needy families even more.
“A lot of people are hurting economically and they don’t have the resources to buy
the toys like they normally would,” Buggs said.
With the pre-event signups to give toys to 263 boys and 236 girls, “this is probably
our biggest Christmas in 10 years,” Buggs said.
Because of the pandemic, fewer volunteers were available at the strictly-outdoor event.
Count Ramsey Coloma among them — on his first day of chipping in his time.
“I just wanted to help out the community. It’s the holiday season. I just wanted to
help everyone,” Coloma said, helping an elderly woman with her food box.
Coloma, a lifetime Vallejoan, said Christmas is “a special day” and he knows what
having toys means to parents as much as kids.
“It’s probably the whole world to them,” he said. “To be able to have a Christmas
with the toys and food, to have something this year … especially with everything going
While Santa Claus handed out mini candy canes, Lisa Gutierrez donned her Grinch character
and kept people — and passing motorists — entertained.
It’s all about helping those who could use a hand, said Grayson, learning what it
meant to assist the downtrodden while he grew up in Indianapolis, Ind.
“Being able to actually go and help someone who was not expecting it … my family always
did that as a tradition,” Grayson said. “We’d find another family and show up on Christmas
Day and bless them with a meal and gifts.”
Grayson’s most memorable gift growing up?
“My very first Tandy 1000 computer from Radio Shack,” he said. “I couldn’t even tell
you how outdated it was.”
Buggs’ wife, Mary Ann, coordinated the toy handout and praised the Vallejo Fire Dept.,
Touro University, and individuals donating gifts, including one woman who “adopted”
The toy distribution has changed since it began in 2010, she said.
“The first few years, we gave away used toys. Now they’re all brand new,” Mary Ann
said, explaining, “Would you like to get a used toy for Christmas?”
Up until midnight Thursday and at Faith Food Fridays all day Friday, “this is my busiest
day of the year … and it’s more than one day,” Mary Ann said.
And come Saturday?
“I will be relaxing, whatever that means,” she said. “Sometimes it means keeping ice
packs on my feet.”