The Student News Site of State University of New York at Brockport

The Stylus

The Stylus

The Stylus

The power of one 

HAPA holiday toy drive, photo provided by HAPA

It’s the season of giving. A season full of joy, teary-eyed Hallmark endings and a feeling warm enough to melt snowflakes. But it’s also a time to remember that not everyone finds truth in that definition—many can’t celebrate this time of year with family or with gifts. SUNY Brockport student Eliza Gonzalez wanted to change that. Her eternal passion and drive to help those in need made this holiday season one to remember for dozens of migrant children and families in the Brockport community (area).   

Gonzalez spent the semester studying and reporting on local migrant workers for her web writing class, and she found herself deeply invested in their stories.   

“My dad is from Mexico, and a lot of the migrant workers I know are from Mexico, so that personal element drew me in,” Gonzalez said. “But I also always see them here; I work on Main Street, and I always see them go by with their bikes. I know they’re here; they’re just not heard. It inspired me to learn more about them, what they do and what they go through.”  

Historically, migrant workers have faced challenges that often go unnoticed. They tend to come from big families with many members living in the same household and are often subjected to strenuous and inadequate working conditions. In New York, migrant workers must work over 60 hours a week in order to get overtime pay, with most of this population only making minimum wage. Many migrant workers face abuse, and the labor is far from easy. The more Gonzalez learned, the more she wanted to help.  

“I grew up in this town and our experiences, our lives, are so different. In the morning when I wake up, I’m such a baby in the cold, but I tell myself like imagine if you had to put on your warm winter gear and go work in a field. I’m so lucky,” Gonzalez said.  

As the holiday season approached, Gonzalez had the idea to start a drive for migrant children, collecting winter gear, board games and craft supplies. She reached out to Brockport’s Migrant Education program, and they let her know of a toy drive and holiday party for local migrant workers’ children that would be taking place on campus. Gonzalez set up her own mini toy drive that same day. She went to Walmart, made donation boxes and flyers and set up bins for collections in Holmes, the Academic Success Center and at Bittersweet, the gift shop she works at.   

“Around this time last year, I saw a migrant worker on a bike carrying a brand-new kid’s bike. I thought he was probably getting it for his son or daughter for Christmas, and it’s like, he went to Walmart, got that bike and was biking home with it. That really got me into the toy drive this year,” Gonzalez said.  

A lot of people have asked Gonzalez if her drive is for a service project or a club, but no—it’s just Eliza being Eliza, Darlene Trento, her boss at Bittersweet would say.  

“She’s amazing,” Trento said. “Her heart is so strong. Doing what she did, I was just so proud of her. She did this without hesitation, and I think she’s just a genuine, beautiful young woman.”  

Trento’s daughter happens to be a head toy buyer for Macy’s, and when she heard of Gonzalez’s drive, she immediately put a donation together. 

“She sent over three huge boxes of the newest, hottest toys of the season and that was amazing; I couldn’t even lift them,” Gonzalez said. “I just always go back to people without a lot of money deserve nice things too. At the beginning I told myself that even if this gives just one or two families a happy Christmas, and I have the power to do that or to facilitate it, then I should.” 

Eliza Gonzalez with donations.

While the Macy’s donation was a huge help, Trento explained that the community really came together to contribute as well.  

“People were just dropping stuff in it [the box], we don’t even know who was donating. I just said, ‘have you looked in your box?’ and she’s like no, and there were hats and gloves. They were leaving, picking up stuff to donate, coming back and putting it in her box; the people were beautiful,” Trento said. 

What was first ignited by a student’s hope to help was ultimately accomplished through the kindness of the Brockport community. This season, Gonzalez was able to deliver over 100 toys to children who might not have had any otherwise. The power of one who collaborates with many truly makes a world of difference.  

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Stylus

Your donation will support the student journalists of State University of New York at Brockport. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Stylus

Comments (0)

All The Stylus Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *