Seventeen-year-old Jonas Corona, who chuckled when sharing his last name, started volunteering at age 4, filling cups of hot chocolate for people experiencing homelessness on Skid Row. Years later, he continues serving others through annual toy giveaways hosted by Love in the Mirror, an organization he launched at age 8.
On Sunday, Corona said he and local partners and sponsors gave out bags and boxes of items including food, diapers, snacks and, of course, toys to 360 families, including 900 children in those families, at Perry Lindsey Academy in North Long Beach.
Like most other giveaways, this one was the first drive-thru, and recipient families needed to register beforehand to pick up a box—as a means to maneuver around social distancing rules. But this was also a chance for organizers and volunteers to customize each giveaway package.
“So, every box is specific to the family,’ Corona said.
The first 180 families that registered received a box from a local food bank, and the rest of them were given cookie and cake mixes and snacks, he said. Many of the families picking up were seen waving and smiling through their masks at volunteers loading their vehicles.
Organization Gay for Good and Free Mom Hugs helped with check-ins as volunteers dressed in festive Christmas gear and sparkling signs greeting drivers. Before COVID, members of these groups used to literally give hugs, especially this time of year, to build connections with others.
“It is difficult, but this is the way we give hugs now,” said Coleen Dunbar, the regional lead of Orange County at Free Mom Hugs.