Taking the Wraps Off the Good Side of Compton: Toy giveaway brings cheer to 3,000 kids. Nearby, 220 guns turned in to deputies.
Taking Wraps Off Good Side of Compton
A toy giveaway brings cheer to 3,000 kids.
Nearby, 220 guns are turned in to deputies.
By Steven Barrie-Anthony
Times Staff Writer
December 18, 2005
Thousands of kids stood in line Saturday morning and afternoon outside
Compton City Hall, tugging on their parents and daydreaming of
"I want clothes for winter and summer," said Terrel Hyder, 12. "And I
want a job and a drum."
His mother, Valerie Singleton, smiled.
"We don't have any money, nothing," said the in-home caregiver, who
recently was laid off. "Without this, my four kids wouldn't get
Like Singleton, many of the parents who gathered at this third annual
Winter Wonderland Giveaway, organized by Councilwoman Barbara Calhoun
and sponsored by the city, expressed relief that in this time of giving,
their kids would feel included.
"I used to buy presents in September," said Renee Siguas, standing
alongside two of her four children. "But I was laid off from Vons, and
now I have to spend all my money on groceries. My daughter Rosa
wants a flying Barbie."
Throughout the day, about 5,000 toys donated by retailers and local
businesses were distributed among nearly 3,000 kids, said Councilman
Isadore Hall. Only Compton residents ages 16 or younger were eligible
for the giveaway.
After waiting in line for an hour or more, each family was welcomed
into the foyer of the converted City Council chambers, where a jolly
volunteer led them in singing Christmas carols of their choosing.
Few had time to finish their songs, however. Soon they were rushed
through a door into the inner sanctum, a room brimming with punching
bags, dolls, videogames, bicycles and unopened boxes, and manned by
dozens of harried volunteers.
Somebody would yell out a kid's age and gender — "Boy! 12!" — and in
seconds a volunteer would thrust two age-specific presents into the
hands of each wide-eyed child. The exit was clogged by gleeful children,
hugging toys to their chests, too stunned by their good fortune to move
It's this image of community and generosity that should represent
Compton, Hall said. Compton, which has the highest homicide rate in Los
Angeles County, "gets a bad rap because of all the shootings," he said.
"But we're working very hard to try and turn that around."
Indeed, at a shopping center just blocks from City Hall, the Los
Angeles County Sheriff's Department was conducting another sort
of giveaway, dubbed "Gifts for Guns." Anyone who showed up with a gun was allowed to trade it in for a $100 gift certificate to Ralphs, Toys-R-Us or Circuit City with no questions asked.
At the end of the day the department had collected more than 220 guns,
said Sheriff's Capt. Eric K. Hamilton.
"We did exceptionally well," he said. "We had so many people lining up
that we ran out of certificates, so we had to ask City Hall and the
Sheriff's Department to provide extra funds. People turned in all sorts
of guns: assault weapons, Uzis, shotguns. Each gun taken off the street
can mean the difference between life and death."
Back at Winter Wonderland, Juan Caldera, 7, waited in tense
anticipation. He was excited about presents, sure, but even more
exciting was the prospect of playing in the snow that organizers
had spread on a cordoned-off portion of Compton Avenue.
"I've never touched snow before," Juan said, lugging a new football and
videogamewhile leading his mother, brother and two sisters in the
direction of flying snowballs.
When he finally touched snow, he leapt back for a moment, and ran to
the fence to tell his mother, "It's cold!" Then he galloped off to pelt his