by Carol Tucker
The USC community mobilizes its forces once again to bring holiday
cheer to neighbors and the needy.

More than 300 low-income children who attend the USC School for Early
Childhood Education will have an extra toy dropped in their stocking
this Christmas, thanks to an annual holiday giving program sponsored
by the Department of Public Safety.

The children - all residents of the University Park neighborhood -
come from families whose average income is about $700 a month.

"They're living on a day-by-day basis, and they don't get many toys,"
said Yolanda Mendez, parent involvement social service coordinator
for the school.

Last year, the children were delighted when a public safety officer
dressed as Santa pulled up to the school atop a vintage fire engine.
After each child had received a toy, the officers sang Christmas
carols. "You could hear them singing from a block away," Mendez said.

The stuffed animals, books, blocks, puzzles and other toys were
brought to the children through Project Special Friend, a program
initiated by community service officer Jaccoma Maultsby four years

Project Special Friend takes community youngsters on a holiday
shopping spree each year at Toy Liquidators in the Citadel Mall,
giving them "play money" to buy toys for themselves and siblings.
Last year, the program was expanded to include the School for Early
Childhood Education in order to reach children too young to be taken
on the shopping spree. Operated under USC Civic and Community
Relations, the school runs Headstart and state preschool programs.

This month, officers from the Department of Public Safety and a
volunteer Los Angeles County fireman will once again roll up to the
preschool, carrying loads of goodies.

The next day, the Department of Public Safety, transportation and
dining services and volunteers from USC and the community will again
escort about 100 local elementary-school children to Toy Liquidators.
The children will meet that morning at the 32nd Street/USC Magnet
School and ride to the store on USC transportation services trams,
with public safety and community services officers volunteering as
escorts. The Educational Consortium of Central Los Angeles (ECCLA) is
coordinating participation in the program from various elementary

Each child will get $10 with which to buy toys. The children are
actually "spending" play money; the organizers pick up the tab later
with funds they have raised plus a donation from the Department of
Public Safety. Toy Liquidators gives a special discount to the
children on top of its usual wholesale prices.

Maultsby enlisted the help of the Department of Public Safety in
1992, after hearing Alvin Rudisill, associate vice president for
civic and community relations, talk about president Steven B.
Sample's community initiatives. He had started the program the
previous year in collaboration with local churches.

"Dr. Rudisill had spoken about the university's desire to partner
with the community," Maultsby said. "I felt that this program would
help accomplish that goal."

Along with DPS and

ECCLA, participating organizations include the Department of
Auxiliary Services, which provides transportation and snacks; Delta
Sigma Theta sorority and the Knights of Columbus Council No. 621.

For more information about Project Special Friend or to make
donations, contact Maultsby at (800) 304-2758.


The USC community can show its holiday spirit by donating toys and
non-perishable food to neighborhood residents through Christmas Is
Community - a food and toy drive coordinated by the Department of
Transportation Services.

Collection bins have been set up at all University Park Campus
parking gates, the USC Parking Center, the Perusati University
Bookstore and the Commons lobby, said Ed Sarpy, manager of
transportation services. The drive began Nov. 28 and continues
through Dec. 23.

"Think about how much you have versus someone who is really in need,"
Sarpy said, urging USC community members to give. One canned good or
box of cereal can make a difference to families in need, he said.
Those who live near USC will be helping their own neighborhood by
contributing, he added.

Contributions will be taken to the USC Catholic Center, located at
3207 University Ave., whence they will be distributed to people
living in the commmunity. For more information, call Rick McCormick
at 740-3579.


Seniors, low-income families and disabled people who live in the
University Park area and can't afford a Christmas tree this year will
have an opportunity to receive a free tree between Dec. 19 and 23.

The annual Christmas Tree Giveaway, coordinated by the Bob Porter
Foundation, celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. "Typically, we
see about 30,000 people and distribute about 20,000 trees, and we
expect to do the same again this year," said Fred Williams, project
manager for the foundation.

The foundation is assisted by the university through USC Civic and
Community Relations, the Department of Transportation Services and
the Department of Public Safety. Various growers donate the trees.

The tree giveaway - which takes place in Parking Lot 1, at Vermont
Avenue and Jefferson Boulevard - runs from noon to 8 p.m. Dec. 19,
from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Dec. 20 to 22, and from 8 a.m. to noon Dec.
23. For more information, call 755-8455.


The USC Neighborhood Academic Initiative's Pre-College Enrichment
Academy will provide holiday food baskets to 42 students whose
families can't afford to fix a special Christmas dinner.

Each year since its inception in 1991, the NAI has provided food
baskets at Thanksgiving and Christmas to needy families.

"There are many families who will not be able to provide a special
meal for the holidays, so we try to lend a hand if we can," said Nita
Moots-Kincaid, assistant director.

More than one-third of the families of the program's 215 youngsters
needed help this year - so many that the NAI had to split its holiday
donation, giving 42 baskets to families at Thanksgiving and 42 to the
remaining families a few days before Christmas, Moots-Kincaid said.

The current crop of NAI scholars attend Foshay Learning Center, John
Muir Middle School and Manual Arts and Los Angeles high schools.

Moots-Kincaid said the food baskets are funded through donations
supplemented by the NAI. Each will contain a turkey, fresh fruit,
canned milk, canned vegetables, a pie and such staples as butter and
sugar. For more information, call the NAI at 740-6313.

[Photo:] Paying a visit to a local elementary school, Santa offers
youngster Judith Espana a storybook while his elf assistant,
Department of Public Safety officer Yolanda Zabala, looks on.

[Photo:] Neighbors gather at the University Park Campus to get their
free firs at last year's Christmas Tree Giveaway, sponsored by the
Bob Porter Foundation with help from USC Civic and Community
Relations, the Department of Transportation Services and the
Department of Public Safety.