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Gilbert’s toy drive and car show
By Simon Wong
Hayward business helps local kids
-- Every December, Gilbert D. Robledo, owner of Gilbert's Body & Paint at 2964 Arf Avenue, Hayward, closes his business for one day to host a toy drive party though he collects toys from Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve. He and his wife, Dolores, organize food, BBQ, a DJ and live music to entertain guests and supporters. There are fundraising auctions throughout the day and collection boxes on tables. Bay Bombs Car Club members show off their prized vehicles at this event which is also an opportunity for friends to catch up with each other. Most, including Robledo, grew up together in Union City’s Decoto neighborhood.
Robledo, a former Marine, undertook the toy drive on behalf of the Marines when his business started 11 years ago. The first year, the collection drum could not be removed until January because the Marines had been deployed to Iraq. The toys had to go out in time for Christmas so, for the first seven years, he took them to Hayward Fire Department. For the past four years, he has enjoyed the support of fellow Bay Bombs Car Club members.
The son of one of his wife's colleagues is a Union City Police Explorer. Through that connection, he learned that the Explorers also need toys so what he collects benefits the community in which he grew up. The Explorers deliver gifts and festive cheer to more than 100 Union City families each year. They distribute some presents at the annual Tri-Cities Winter Charity Event organized by Centro de Servicios and the Purple Lotus School on Ninth Street and deliver the majority to homes throughout Union City. Every year, Robledo has managed to collect more than 500 toys.
“The Explorers catch the attention of passing motorists many of whom return with donations,” explained Robledo. “Unfortunately, the Explorers couldn’t join us this year but the event has grown annually and we’re grateful for the toys and financial donations received. Starting in 2013, we will accept donations throughout the year, not only between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve.”
The public can also leave donations, marked for the attention of 'Police Explorers,' year-round at Union City Police Department, William M. Cann Memorial Civic Center, 34009 Alvarado-Niles Road, Union City.
"We’re linked in with churches in Hayward and invite needy teens to our staff Christmas party. They don’t know why they are at the shop. We use the auction proceeds to purchase $100-gift cards which my wife and daughter present at the end of lunch. None of them would otherwise have anything for Christmas. It’s very touching," stated Robledo. "We try to find the kids through churches because we feel they are on the right path. We hope to invite 16 teens this year. One of my customers generously donated a dozen pairs of Jordans for our auction.”
J.J. Amaya (KOHL 89.3 FM), supported by Chucky Salinas, provided the playlist and doubled as auctioneer at the toy drive party on December 8, 2012. Robledo, who earned his living as a drummer across the Bay Area before joining the military and starting his own business, played a live set with friends. Santa, aka Jeff Orozco, who works for Fremont Chapel of the Roses, had hoped to arrive at the toy drive in the funeral home's famed white, hot-rod hearse but still managed to deliver candy canes and lend support for the event.
Additional donations can be left at Gilbert's Body & Paint at 2964 Arf Avenue, Hayward, for final collection by the Union City Police Explorers on December 24.
For more information:
Union City Police Explorers
Centro De Servicios
Bay Bombs Car Club
Gilbert's Body & Paint