This is not your ordinary toy drive. At the ones you're used to seeing around town, you drop off your Christmas gift for some less fortunate kid at a huge, faceless organization, and in your head you're hoping it goes to that kid in need. The good people from AutoCon and the Purist Group do things a little different, however, and have gotten together for the fifth year to host their annual Winter Drive, this year at the Industry Hills Expo Center in the City of Industry, Calif.
Rather than relying on others to collect the toys, the group does it themselves at the event. How effective is it? Well, one year they counted over 20,000 toys - that's how effective. Knowing they are fully capable of collecting the goods, the organizers really honed in and thought carefully about the people they were giving to. We caught up with Sean Lee, founder of the Purist Group, and talked about the differences between your average toy drive and the Winter Drive.
pbskids: Is there a certain foundation you're giving the toys to?
Sean Lee: Let's say you donate to a huge organization. Normally what happens is they have a huge pick-up date, but the problem is there are lots of people who don't really qualify, but will still go and get toys. A lot of supply goes to waste. Many organizations don't really care about all the merchandise. They do it more for marketing purposes. Sometimes you see kids picking out three to six toys. All these products are donated out of everyone's kindness in the car community. My objective as a moderator is to make sure these toys go to the right people. This year we started working with many other cities and law enforcement. Every city has its own community center and on their list they know exactly who is underprivileged because of their income. This is people's hard-earned money and we have to use it the right way. Last thing you want to see is a toy drive event - give it to say, an organization, for example the Salvation Army - and call it a day. Our original group of guys didn't want to do that. Back in '06 we did our first toy drive and 30 people came. Even Paul Walker was there. He would be really happy to see this today. It's a good memory. This is an environment that Paul Walker would love to hang out with—car people, car guys.
SS: So the main difference is that you guys are making sure these toys are going to the kids that actually need them most.
SL: Yes. It's everyone's trust we're dealing with. The Purists never do fundraising. Everything is out of my pocket or another moderator's pocket to fund this event. We're not making money. Every one of those toys represents someone's trust in the community that Purist built, and we have to use it for the right channel. Otherwise it forfeits the meaning. This is our fifth year we've been doing it and next year we will make it even bigger.
SS: What are some of the highlights this year?
SL: This year we got Pagani and Rolls Royce involved. Of course Michelin came in big time. You know they spent a lot of money bringing those cars. Michelin sponsored all the swag. My joy is seeing the whole plan coming together with all the volunteers. I haven't slept for 36 hours. But we want to see this go through. A lot of people don't understand, it's not a car show. This actually has more meaning. Afterall, it's the season of giving. At the end of the day it's the people who sort the toys and clean up the venue who are the real MVPs. Witnessing the philanthropy is enough to sway even the most unenlightened of Scrooges.
SS: What's the plan for 2018?
SL: It's only going to get bigger. But we will not abandon this venue, because we're so close to the city and the mayor. They give us so much support. I know the space is kind of small now for all of us, but we'll manage.