Bridgette Fahnbulleh knows that real hugs can’t happen in 2020, so she’s hoping that a figurative hug will suffice for now.
Fahnbulleh, who leads the Vancouver NAACP chapter, is part of a group of local organizations and folks who held a large toy drive last week for Clark County children.
In all, the toy drive served about 150 families, making sure the holidays weren’t lost for children during a year when so much loss — lives and jobs — has already happened.
On Monday, Fahnbulleh and a few other folks gathered and organized toys at Bridgeview Resource Center, a social services organization in Vancouver that connects families with resources. Families received their allotment of toys a couple days before Christmas.
Books, Hot Wheels, Nerf balls, basketballs, soccer balls, dolls, stuffed animals and more were scattered throughout a room at Bridgeview on Monday. Volunteers sorted the toys, while wearing masks.
Fahnbulleh said Christmas will be hard for families this year because of how many people have lost work since the pandemic officially arrived in Clark County in March.
“We are so isolated now,” Fahnbulleh said. “We don’t touch each other, and we stand 6 feet apart. I think it’s a way of giving a hug, so kids know the community cares. We can’t touch you right now. We can’t be near you right now, but we care about you.”
Karen Morrison, who runs the education-based nonprofit Odyssey World International Education Services, said the toy drive was “about partnering and coming together as a community.”
Another volunteer at Bridgeview Monday was Pastor Damion Young, who leads Seeds of Greatness Ministries and is the Vancouver NAACP’s religious chair.
Young has been involved in local toy drives for four years now. This year, the pandemic created a different meaning for the effort.
“More now than ever, we need to be giving back in the community,” Young said. “This is about supporting parents so they can see their children smile.”
Ed Hamilton Rosales, president of Southwest Washington League of United Latin American Citizens, Council 47013, said he’s heard from numerous people this year that small, but important gestures, have helped them get through another day.
He referenced a coat drive from the fall, where people needed warm clothes for the upcoming winter, but couldn’t afford them.
“This year has been devastating for everybody,” Hamilton Rosales said. “I hope the toys can help people remember this year with a little joy.”
Yolanda Frazier, who is the local chair of Women in the NAACP, said her hope is that the toys remind people of the good that still exist in the world, despite how awful this year has been for many.
“It’s a symbol of love,” Frazier said, tearing up slightly. “No matter what we experienced, there’s still that silver lining that people are people and we love each other. No amount of hate or distractions can remove that. Even though inhumane things have transpired, you can never take away what’s internal and that’s love.”