Disadvantaged families get shopping spree at Colonies in Upland
UPLAND >> Two hundred families going through hard times across Southern California converged on Upland on Saturday morning for the sixth annual Colonies Crossroads’ Holiday Miracles event.
“We’re a bunch of businessmen that want to give back to our community and the disadvantaged and the best way we can do it is by opening up our stories in partnership with our retailers,” said Jeff Burum, co-managing member of the Colonies Partnership, which owns the shopping center.
The families were chosen by eight local groups and charities, including National Community Renaissance and its Hope Through Housing Foundation, the Upland Unified School District’s Healthy Start program, Children’s Fund, Pacific Lifeline, House of Ruth, Foothill Family Shelter, OPARC, Children’s Hope and the Upland Housing Authority. The family of Francisco Camacho Melendez of Compton, who drowned in San Pedro in November attempting to save another man and a teen-aged boy from drowning, were also invited to participate.
Each family received a $200 gift card, and Kohl’s Department Store and Dick’s Sporting Goods offered deep discounts to the program participants Saturday morning to make the money go further. Shopping center merchants also contributed goods that made their way into gift bags for the families, Albertson’s grocery store provided holiday dinners for the families and 50 families also received Christmas trees and decorations.
“We have unbelievable support from the tenants,” Colonies co-managing partner Dan Richards said. “They’re donating food and money.”
Many of the store’s employees also volunteered Saturday morning.
The program spun out of an earlier San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department program called Shop with a Cop, and police and firefighters from multiple departments were among the volunteers chaperoning children on their shopping sprees on Saturday morning.
In some cases, the event is a rare chance for the kids to interact with law enforcement in a non-adversarial environment.
“It’s an opportunity to see them in a more positive light,” Burum said.
Upland Unified Superintendent Nancy Kelly helped 10-year-old Allejandra Castro of Victorville shop for girls’ clothes at Kohl’s.
“I told myself, ever since I transitioned from being a high school principal” into being an administrator, “I’d stay connected with kids,” Kelly said. “It was great to be asked to do this.”
“It’s nice to see an organization doing well give back to the community,” said Upland Mayor Ray Musser, who escorted an autistic girl and her mother on a shopping spree through Kohl’s department store.
But not all of the gifts purchased on Saturday made their way home:
Brothers Jayvier and Jaisonn Vasquez of Upland, 13 and 10 years old, whose parents are both in prison, chose to donate many of the toys they purchased with their gift card to children they felt were even more deserving.
“Some kids don’t have the stuff we’ve got,” the older Vasquez said. “So we need to support those kids.”