A local community organization today will start collecting 1,000 new toys intended for the migrant children temporarily staying at the Long Beach Convention Center.

“All politics aside, the children are the innocent ones in this,” said Tony Bell, president of Westside Elevate, the local group organizing the toy drive. “We believe that if we could provide each child with a new toy, that would help to brighten their time while they’re in transition.”

Anyone interested in donating toys can do so by either dropping them off at 1366 W. 33rd St., or requesting a pickup from any of the seven volunteers helping the West Long Beach-based organization, Bell said. Due to lingering health concerns over the coronavirus, the toys must be new. They should also be age appropriate, he said.

The children, some of which have already started arriving on Thursday, are mostly girls 17 and under and some boys 12 and under, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which is operating the site. Up to 1,000 children can be housed at the convention center until Aug. 2, which matches the number of toys Bell hopes to collect for the kids.

After seeing many locals seeking ways to support the children, Westside Elevate plans to grow its number of drop-off locations throughout Long Beach. Beyond this city, Bell plans to open locations in the nearby communities of Wilmington, San Pedro, Carson, Lakewood and Torrance.

Under federal HHS approval, Bell said that he will be coordinating the toy drop-offs with city officials tasked to receive donations for the migrant children.

Westside Elevate’s toy drive will last until July 15. For pick-up and drop information, call 562-263-7177 or text “toy” to 424-567-7764.

Editor’s note: This story has been edited to reflect an update from Tony Bell that the federal Department of Health and Human Services has allowed Westside Elevate to operate its toy drive intended for the migrant children staying at the Long Beach Convention Center; HHS instructed the group to coordinate the toy drop-offs with city officials.