Santa wears shades to a La Maestra holiday celebration in San Diego, Calif.
TODAY's Toy Drive donations go to hundreds of nonprofit family organizations in all 50 states. La Maestra Community Health Centers is one such group. Find out about its mission below, and donate online to TODAY's Toy Drive here.
Mary, a mother of four children who’s expecting a fifth, visited a La Maestra Community Health Center in San Diego for a counseling appointment. She broke down in tears because her husband had lost his job; to make matters more stressful, she could not work because of her pregnancy.
That same day, a shipment of children’s shoes had arrived from Stride Rite via TODAY’s Toy Drive. The therapist was able to offer Mary a new pair of shoes for all of her children, along with two board games from the Toy Drive that the family could enjoy together.
Countless parents and grandparents have echoed the sentiments of one mother who said, “If it weren't for the Toy Drive at La Maestra, my kids wouldn’t have a Christmas.”
The group’s partnership with TODAY’s Toy Drive began in the 1990s when La Maestra staff and volunteers were struck by how many families needed extra help during the holiday season. The toy and gift drive has been growing ever since; last year, with TODAY’s support, La Maestra was able to distribute more than 15,500 toys, meals and other gifts to patients and other local families in need.
Gifts are distributed to happy recipients of TODAY's Toy Drive.
Each year La Maestra serves more than 82,000 people, many of whom have come to Southern California from 60 different countries and speak more than 30 languages and dialects. Many of these new American families have fled brutal conflicts in their home countries and face barriers to being healthy and self-sufficient.
La Maestra’s patients also include veterans, military families, survivors of human trafficking and violent crimes, older adults scraping by in low-income housing and the homeless.