Holiday toy drive aims to unwrap a proud, Puerto Rican tradition

  • Kayla Rodriguez is operations manager at Nueva Esperanza at 401 Main St. in Holyoke. STEPHEN FAY

For the Gazette
Published: 11/27/2019 8:49:03 AM

HOLYOKE — The 20th annual Nueva Esperanza toy drive, now in high gear, is not solely centered on dolls, dragons and Disney.

Toys are the featured attraction, no question, but the day of distribution is a gift in itself, a cultural embrace and an affirmation of roots. More than 1,000 new, wrapped toys will be given out well after Christmas — on Jan. 4 — as part of a Three Kings Day observance at Holyoke's Morgan Elementary School on South Bridge Street.

Kayla Rodriguez, operations manager at Nueva Esperanza (New Hope) at 401 Main St. explained that Three Kings Day is one of the most important holidays on the Puerto Rican calendar. It is on Three Kings Day (El Dia de Los Reyes) and not on Dec. 25 that many tradition-minded Puerto Ricans (and much of the Latin world) exchange gifts.

"We do a lot for the Puerto Rican community," Rodriguez said Monday. That includes honoring and celebrating Puerto Rican cultural traditions.

This year's toy drive, which started Oct. 15 and wraps up Dec. 31, is off to a robust start. The Analeh Show on Univision has designated Nueva Esperanza's toy drive one of four recipients of a holiday toy collection event Dec. 5 at Hartford Hospital in Connecticut.

In addition, the Marines' Toys for Tots campaign has notified Rodriguez that 1,000 gifts for children are coming her way. All the while, toy collection boxes at Holyoke schools, businesses, restaurants, barbershops, insurance companies, and social service agencies are filling up with presents.

By partnering with other community non-profits, Nueva Esperanza's goal is to create a single, community-wide celebration of children, generosity and the three kings — Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar — who brought gifts to the newborn Jesus. 

The public is invited to the Three Kings event. It will be held on Saturday, Jan. 4, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Morgan School.




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