Twenty-one years after its first shopping excursion helped San Benito County children in need, Small Steps has become a much-anticipated annual event not only for the families it helps, but for volunteers as well.
A local nonprofit, Small Steps provides coats and shoes to children from low income families to wear during the fall and winter months.
Participants from various walks of life turned out to the Nov. 3 event to support Small Steps’ vision of providing clothing to approximately 375 children between two events. San Benito High School students removed tags from newly purchased clothing for excited children, while deputies from the San Benito County Sheriff’s Office shopped at Target with the kids they had been assigned.
While most people start as a volunteer with Small Steps on one of the two shopping days each November, Patty Ainsworth jumped right in as a board member five years ago after learning about the group.
“We do have a lot of underprivileged children in San Benito County,” said Ainsworth. “It’s very heartwarming to help them in the holiday seasons.”
Barbara Taddeo, a volunteer for 12 years, continues to help with the organization after noticing children showing up to the event wearing just a t-shirt in the cold morning air. “I like knowing they will go to school in warm clothes,” she said.
Taddeo also appreciates that Small Steps cuts off tags before sending clothing home with children, to ensure that the clothing will stay with the children.
Part of the tag removal crew at the event included students from San Benito High School, who volunteered with the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), and student organizations such as Interact Club and Key Club.
San Benito High junior Maya Villegas came with members of her peer group to give back to the community in which she was raised.
“It is really nice to be able to give to young children in need because they are going to be the ones who are making the biggest difference in the future,” Villegas said. “Helping them when they’re young will help shape them to become awesome teenagers and adults.”
High school student Alissa Tortorelli was inspired to attend after realizing that everyone did not have the same opportunities when growing up.
“Interacting with the kids and getting to talk to them was the best part,” Tortorelli said. “They had good jokes.”
Small Steps will help a second group of children this Saturday, Nov. 10 at Kmart in Hollister.
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