When Lori Morrison-Young started her Christmas shopping this year for her two daughters, she also shopped for seven other children.
For the past five years, Morrison-Young and several other employees at Southern California Edison’s (SCE) Covina Service Center have participated in the McKinley Children Center’s Toys and Joys Program that pairs employees with foster children and kids with special needs. SCE employees have also donated to the kids at the Specialized Care Foster Family Agency since 2012.
“At the end of the day, just knowing that they had something to open for Christmas is why we do this,” said Morrison-Young, the employee giving representative for the Covina Service Center.
At the Covina center, volunteering and donating to worthy causes is a year-round affair. And for the past few years, the employees have worked alongside the McKinley Center and the Foster Family Agency to bring some Christmas joy to dozens of kids. SCE employees at the Chino Service Center have also joined their co-workers in Covina by donating to these programs.
In November, the employee giving team in Covina asked the center and agency for a list of boys and girls to sponsor. The team then paired the children with various SCE employees.
Most of the employees who volunteer for the programs involve their children and sponsor kids close in age to their own children or grandchildren. This allows the employees' kids to shop for their peers at the center and agency.
“Our employees here take pride in making Christmas special for these children. They really get into it; they put a lot of thought and effort into getting the kids exactly what they want,” Morrison-Young said. “Not only does it feel good for our employees to reach out and help out, it builds unity among the people here at the service center.”
This year, the gifts are scheduled to be presented to the children on Dec. 19. Gifts for the foster children will be given to social workers to deliver right before Christmas so the kids can open them on Christmas morning.
The number of children sponsored by employees has more than quadrupled since 2010 when 30 kids received gifts. Last year, the employees sponsored 120 children and they expect to surpass that this year.
The nonprofit McKinley center has 300 foster children and works with more than 100 children in need in the community through their non-public school and mental health programs.
Rhonda Beltran, director of development at the McKinley center, said they initially gave SCE wishes from 50 children. A week later, SCE employees asked if she could send over more names.
“We are always extremely excited when they get behind a project because we know they will go above and beyond,” Beltran said. “For the majority of the children in our programs, they don’t know what it’s like to wake up Christmas morning with a gift bought specifically for them. The Toys and Joys Program helps these children experience a bright and happy holiday for possibly the first time ever.”
Beltran said SCE has been assisting McKinley in various ways for many years. Recently, the Covina Service Center held a food drive to help McKinley start a food pantry for their families in need. Today, McKinley assists more than 60 families a month, and Beltran attributes the success to SCE’s monthly support.
“I am extremely grateful to each and every SCE employee,” Beltran said. “They have brought joy to thousands of children over the last few years with their caring and dedication.”