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Henrietta J. Burroughs
East Palo Alto Today
December 17, 2010

 

Some might consider it an unusual gathering when East Palo Alto’s city manager, two of East Palo Alto’s city council members and at least four of the city’s department heads show up at the Bloomingdale’s department store in the Stanford Shopping Center to receive a donation of toys.

But the unusual gathering occurred in the store’s Kids department, and the donation consisted of 24 toy bears that the store was contributing to East Palo Alto for its holiday toy giveaway.
  
Bloomingdale’s Stanford billed the December 16, event as a “Community Celebration & Children’s Gift Drive,” which it held to celebrate its long standing partnership with the City of East Palo Alto. In the past, the store and the city have collaborated in holding cultural and artistic events featuring local artists and nonprofit organizations. Thursday’s toy giveaway in the Kids department at the store marked the culmination of their two year relationship.

During the store’s community celebration, presentations focusing on the continuing partnership between the city and the store were made by the store’s Public Relations Manager Linette Leong and its Operations Manager Jim Maloney. East Palo Alto’s Community Services Director Meda Okelo, East Palo Alto’s City Manager, ML Gordon and Carlos Romero, the city’s mayor, also spoke.

The unique collaboration between the store and the city was most aptly described by Romero, who said, “There is often a divide, which is not only a physical divide, which is 101, but there is an economic divide. Bloomingdale’s reaching out to East Palo Alto, I think, … begins to close that divide…. Let’s continue to close that divide.”

The high point of the celebration occurred when everyone posed for a group picture, holding one of the bears that Bloomingdale’s Stanford was donating to the children of East Palo Alto. It was in a sense, a group bear hug.

Picture of Community Celebration at Bloomingdales
                                   Picture courtesy of Henrietta J. Burroughs
Representatives from the City of East Palo Alto and several city resi-
dents pose, holding toy bears, with representatives from Blooming-
dale's Stanford during the stores' celebration to recognize the part-
nership between the store and the City of East Palo Alto.


The toy bears sell at the department store for $29.99. Eight dollars of the sales price goes to the Child Mind Institute, a national organization headquartered in New York City, which specializes in enabling children who have mental health disorders, to live healthy, fulfilling lives.

The unique relationship between the store and the city started with a phone call from Leong to Okelo. In their conversation, Leong expressed Bloomingdale’s Stanford's interest in working with the city as a way of giving back to the community.

In 2008, Bloomingdale’s Stanford and the City of East Palo Alto partnered in celebrating Black History month by putting on a display of the artwork produced by Fortune Sitole, a South African artist. At the time, Sitole used mixed media pieces made from recycled materials to mirror shelters in South African townships.

In 2009, the department store and the city celebrated the contributions of Latino Americans at a Latino heritage event, which featured fashion photography by Norma Lopez Molina and a dance performance by Raices de Mexico. The event was held at Bloomingdale's that September.

The store and the city are slated to work together in holding future events.

Bloomingdale’s Stanford's donation of toy bears will be added to other toys that city officials will present to East Palo Alto children on Friday, December 17, in the East Palo Alto Municipal Building at 4 p.m.

 

To read the article on the toy bear give-away, which took place in East Palo Alto on December 17, click here.

Updated on December 27. To contact the author, email Henrietta J. Burroughs: epatoday@epatoday.org


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