The annual holiday Gift Bag Drive celebrated its 20th Anniversary.
Campbell, the San Diego Estates realtor who started the East San Diego County charity, invited dozens of people who have helped with the annual project to a catered “Thank You” luncheon on Jan. 28 in the Alpine Library, 1752 Alpine Blvd.
The occasion brought back memories for many who attended. They have generously helped, often for years, through donations, sponsorships and other means.
“At the beginning we collected anything anybody would give us,” Campbell told the crowd. “A neighbor gave a bag of hangers. People would donate used candles.”
That first drive, he said, filled 10 bags from neighbors and created “enough excitement to do it again.”
“Now as a group we’ve passed out probably 115,000 bags,” said Campbell. “What began as a small effort to help a church pantry for a couple of weeks has turned into a mission.”
The drive finally had to limit acceptable donations to nonperishable foods or brand new items, such as children’s toys, diapers and clothing.
“Even though we have a nonperishable food drive every year some of the things are perished,” Campbell quipped, drawing chuckles.
Many at the luncheon have seen what a simple gift can mean to people, young or old, who are struggling with life.
“We take the stuffed animals and hand them out to kids,” said Rick Roesch, president of Mercy Medical Transportation, Inc. “At the time, the kids are very upset. The toy then helps children calm down a little.”
After encouraging “contagious generosity,” Pastor Greg Roedell of Alpine’s Bethel Christian Assembly church said he knows of people who were in tears as they gratefully picked up Gift Bag Drive groceries.
The drive has also donated $10,000 during the years to community organizations in East San Diego County.
Campbell, who is the Alpine Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors’ chairman, said that what he has appreciated most about presenting the drive is the way working on behalf of one charity has helped him empower others to give to any charity.
Personal plaques given to the luncheon guests thanked them for their “understanding that good people count their blessings and exceptional people share their blessings.”
On behalf of newly-elected State Senator Brian Jones, Andrew Hayes presented Campbell with a Certificate of Recognition for the Gift Bag Drive.
“You aren’t going to solve hunger, but you are going to give people hope,” Hayes said.