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When Julian Howard was a child, he remembered having just a few small presents under his Christmas tree.
Times were hard, he said, and gifts weren’t necessities.
For many, finances are still tough this time of year, and Howard aims to brighten the Christmas morning of local youth with toys gifted from an annual toy drive he began at the Vacaville Neighborhood Boys & Girls Club four years ago.
“Every year we want it to be bigger. We want to fill the back of a cargo van,” he said Tuesday.
Howard, now 19, remembers starting the toy drive at 15 with the support of a friend and longtime volunteer, Susan Schwartz. The aim was to collect what they could and distribute them to kids in lower income neighborhoods.
“I thought our club just needs to give back,” he said, explaining that so many in the community support the club that he wanted to return the favor. Seeing the contributions pour in was magical.
“I want to know that, when I leave this earth, I made an impact on this world,” he said.
The smiles on recipients’ faces, Schwartz said, is everything.
“One time a father comes out and says, ‘Is this for anybody?’” recalled Schwartz. “I said yes. He said, ‘I have a 3-year-old, a 5-year-old and a 7-year-old.”
All the kids got toys, and Schwartz and the club kids with her received the satisfaction of making a child’s Christmas.
“The (club) kids said this was the best thing they’d ever done,” she said.
Club staffer Travis Hitt described the project and the participating kids as amazing.
“It’s pretty cool. It’s just another way of giving back,” he said. “It’s definitely cool that an alumni is continuing this.”
Donations of unwrapped toys are sought for kids of all ages and gift cards or cash for such are sought for hard-to-buy-for teens. Clothing and other gifts for parents are also accepted, as is non-perishable food donations for turkey dinner baskets to be given to families in need.
“I remember we gave a mom a food basket and she just broke down,” Howard said.
Have a contribution?
Drop them at the Vacaville Neighborhood Boys & Girls Club at 100 Holly Lane Monday through Friday until Dec. 19. Or, call the club for a pickup.
Distribution takes place Dec. 23. For more information on the club, visit

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