By Nick Eisman
Lines wrapped around the block at the Homeland Culture Center on Saturday morning on November 21, as hundreds lined up for the Diamonds and Turkey giveaway. This was the fifth year that Tito Rodriguez, from the Local Hearts Foundation worked with Diamond Supply Co. to give over a thousand turkeys to community members.
Rodriguez, one of the main organizers of the event, who also goes by the name, the Hood Santa, was shocked to see how many turkeys they were able to give this year.
“My original goal was 1,000 but we shattered that, there’s around 1,260 turkeys that were donated for this event,” Rodriguez said.
Through donations, the Local Hearts Foundation was able to purchase 1,100 turkeys and there were many small businesses and community members that donated to the drive as well.
The Hood Santa made it clear that this was a group effort. “We had tons of people get involved, donate, volunteer, just wonderful humans who make this happen,” Rodriguez said. “It takes us to help us, it’s about us getting together to do something awesome.” The Hood Santa and the organization, Local Hearts Foundation worked with Diamond Supply, Grizzly Grip Tape, Trace3, Mr. Nice Guy, Foos Gone Wild, the Manny Pacquiao Foundation and Foster Farms to make this event happen.
“My ultimate goal is to help the communities that need it. I grew up in this community, I know how poor it is here, and I wanted to come here and do something awesome for the people here.” he said.
Turkeys weren’t the only thing that was being handed out to families. Diamond Supply Co. provided goodie bags packed with T-shirts and sweaters. “I know that these times, it can be very cold and I just want to make sure everyone is taken care of,” Rodriguez said.
Many protocols were put in place to ensure the health and safety of both volunteers and those receiving turkeys. As people in line entered the plaza to receive their turkeys, volunteers ensured that they were wearing masks and sanitized their hands. Many of the volunteers were wearing additional face shields on top of their masks.
Eric, a volunteer, said, “I know Tito and he’s someone who I really look up to, he’s a huge inspiration. He (The Hood Santa) is always giving back to the community and that’s something I wish I could do everyday.”
Community member, Pluto Maxx wasn’t affiliated with any of the sponsors of the event but still set up a table with clothes that were donated to give to those who needed it. “I usually give these clothes to the homeless but I wanted to come here today to see who may need them.”
“Diamond Supply Co. has been a massive help to our organization, if I had to guess a figure on how much they’ve donated since we started collaborating, it’s probably millions of dollars,” Rodriguez said.
As the holiday season nears, the Hood Santa and his fellow organizers look forward to hosting their 10th annual Holiday Toy Drive which will take place on December 19th at the Homeland Culture Center. They aim to raise $50,000 in toys to give to the community. They are accepting donations for their Christmas toy drive and wish to have more opportunities to give back to the community in the future.