‘It’s like an avalanche’: Convention Center staff overwhelmed with book and toy donations for migrant children

Community members, nonprofit groups and other organizations are rallying in support of migrant children at the Long Beach Convention Center, donating thousands of books, games and toys.

The community response has been so overwhelming that staff at the Long Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau, which is handling all of the toys and books from the city’s 12 drop-off sites, said they’re having a hard time keeping up with the donations.

Several thousand books had been donated as of Tuesday, and more are on the way, city officials said.

“It keeps coming and coming and coming,” said Convention & Visitors Bureau President and CEO Steve Goodling. “The community has been very responsive.”

Federal authorities last month tapped the Long Beach Convention Center as one of several emergency shelter sites across the country set up by the Department of Health and Human Services to handle the increase of unaccompanied migrant children arriving at the Mexico border.

The Long Beach facility will house up to 1,000 children—mostly girls ages 5 to 17 and boys under 12—until Aug. 2.

About 350 children have arrived over the past week with more expected in the coming days.

City officials have said the community response has been overwhelmingly positive, with residents asking how they can volunteer and donate.

Some of the donations include:

  • 2,700 coloring books from The Molina Foundation and Long Beach CVB
  • 1,000 books from Belmont Heights United Methodist Church
  • 800 stuffed animals and toys from the Aquarium of the Pacific and Long Beach
  • 400 books from Barnes & Noble
  • 200 books from Once Read Books: 200 books
  • $1,000 worth of toys and books from Lil Devil’s Boutique and group of local residents

Convention & Visitors Bureau spokesperson Samantha Mehlinger said her email inbox is filled with donation offers, including rosaries from local Catholic churches, thousands of coloring books from the L.A. Farmers Market and eight boxes of dresses.

The dresses can’t be donated to the children, so they were given to the WomenShelter of Long Beach, which in turn donated toys and books, she said.

Mehlinger said she’s touched by how many people want to help.

“It’s just been overwhelming,” she said. “It’s like an avalanche.”

Donations of new books and toys are being accepted through May 8.

One of three bellman carts full of book at toy donations at the Long Beach Holiday Inn drop-off site on Tuesday. Photo from the Long Beach CVB

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Kelly Puente is an award-winning general assignment and special projects reporter at the Long Beach Post. She has worked as a journalist in Long Beach since 2006, covering everything from education and crime to courts and breaking news. Kelly previously worked at the Long Beach Press-Telegram and the Orange County Register before joining the Post in 2018. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public policy and administration at Cal State Long Beach. Reach her at ke[email protected].
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