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La Mesa Chamber doubles up on drives

The La Mesa Chamber of Commerce has two signature holiday gift drives for locals in the La Mesa community. Each year the chamber assists La Mesa homebound seniors, and a second holiday drive is a project with Liberty Military Housing in La Mesa for children between 2- to 13-year-olds.

La Mesa Chamber President & CEO Mary England said both fundraisers have reached far beyond the chamber, with many locals not associated with the chamber providing items for seniors and for children.

In assisting children of military families living in La Mesa military housing, the chamber is reaching out to members and the community for its toy drive, culminating with a celebration and the final collection of toys on Dec. 5 at BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse in Grossmont Center from 5:30 – 7 p.m. Admission is free to members who bring a new unwrapped toy, cost for non-members is $15 with an unwrapped toy. The evening includes heavy hors d’ oeuvres, salads, and signature pizzas. Make reservations by Thursday, Nov. 30 to Those unable
to attend the event but wish to donate may contact the chamber office, (619) 465-7700, to arrange to deliver the toys or have them picked up.

Liberty Military Housing facilitates holiday events for over 2,000 military children within the region.

“The military members live in military housing,” said England. “Many could have a family member deployed. This allows the children to also have toys and lets them know that they are not forgotten during the holidays and the community cares about them. Toys normally come from locals, and we are in a partnership with the La Mesa Police Department. EDCO is the presenting sponsor at the BJ’s party, and they want to continue the legacy started by Ed and Sandy Burr.”

The LMPD is holding its 11th annual Holiday Toy Drive in collaboration with the La Mesa Chamber. New toys can be dropped off at the LMPD, 80085 University Ave. to support military families until Nov. 30.

England said on Dec. 5, people from the Liberty Military Housing come with vans, load them with toys, and the toys are distributed within two weeks. The Chamber does not deliver the toys.

In helping homebound seniors, the chamber is looking for canned soups, vegetables, and fruits, crackers, pasta or macaroni and cheese, bars of soap, toothpaste, tissues, hand soaps, hand sanitizer, pens, pads of paper, gift cards of any denominations from Walmart, Target, or any grocery store. All items must be received by Dec. 1 in time to be included in the senior gift baskets and bags. They may be delivered to the La Mesa Chamber office: 8080 La Mesa Blvd., Suite 214, La Mesa to Fran Smith. Monday –
Friday between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Mary England is also available seven days a week to meet donors and pick up those items. Contact Mary England on her cell 619-251-7730.

England said the homebound seniors are homebound and frequently visited by the Retired Senior Volunteer Patrol.

“They choose these seniors,” she said. “This is very important to our seniors because they are La Mesa seniors that are homebound. The visit, the food, and all the gift cards mean so much. You have no idea how people give to these seniors. This not only allows our seniors to have food for a few months, but they also get cash from gift cards that allow them to take them shopping to shop for supplies. We all know how expensive it is. Our entire community gives back to our seniors who may not have family around, be widows or widowers who are semi-alone during the holidays. This lets them know that the community cares about them and that we have not forgotten them. Most donations are from throughout the region. Many of them are seniors giving back to seniors.”

This year, the chamber is assisting a total of 16 seniors, 12 women and four men. England said the senior holiday drive was an event she started personally, and someone suggested that she take it to the Chamber’s board, to make it a chamber event, and she was hesitant at first.

“This is my heart,” said England. “My mom was homebound. I took care of her. I know that our seniors all believe they are going to outlive their money. They are all worried. Many of them are on limited income, but the big thing is that they are alone during the holidays. If in any small way that the La Mesa Chamber can help, let them know that they are cared for and we remember them, that is what we want to do.”

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