Birthdays are a time of receiving. However, Nancee Lee-Allen, a longtime staff member at Phoenix House Academy in Los Angeles, doesn’t see it this way. Her rock band friends once asked her what she wanted for her birthday, which falls around Christmas, and she requested that they set up a toy drive. So they gathered friends and family and began what has become a 25-year-old tradition, giving toys to kids in need, while popular underground rock bands such as Handsome Devil and Full Blown Karma perform. Nancee has hosted her event, dubbed the Rock Angel Toy Drive, from as far away as New York, Boston, and Washington D.C., and as close as Las Vegas, Orange County, and Los Angeles. It follows her wherever she goes.
She also began a new tradition in 2008, collaborating with K&A Café & Catering in Anaheim to provide food, crafts, toys and a visit from Santa each Christmas Eve for children and families living in shelters and motels. Local Boys and Girls Scouts have joined in recently to help in wrapping the toys. All the work done for this event is strictly on a volunteer basis. When she’s not being Santa’s helper, Nancee is a valued team member at Phoenix House as regional utilization review manager, ensuring the high quality of our services.
About six years ago, the Harry Potter Alliance, a service group that Nancee belongs to, began participating in the toy drive. What resulted were volunteers dressing up in either Harry Potter school uniforms or as actual characters from the movies. Last year, a very cheerful Hagrid surprised everyone by escorting children to see Santa. Kids light up seeing the characters from cherished fiction novels.
The toy drive helps make the holidays all the more magical. This year, everyone was in for an additional surprise when the local fire department showed up to thank Nancee for her hard work. The fire marshal brought in about a dozen bikes and skateboards that were raffled away to the ecstatic kids.
The Christmas Eve event has gained such momentum and popularity that it hardly needs advertising. Hundreds of families with children attend yearly. Nonetheless, Kops for Kids and other Orange County social service agencies proudly spread the word. Leftover toys are donated to Caring Strokes in Los Angeles, where kids with HIV, serious medical illnesses, and intensive medical procedures get to choose a toy. As families near and far experience the joys of the holiday season, Nancee’s birthday wish comes true each year.
Thanks to the dedication of our staff, children of clients at Phoenix House also had toys to enjoy for the holidays. Next year we will make an even greater impact. If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse, we are here to help. Please all 1 888 671 9392 to discuss your situation and receive a referral to the nearest treatment facility.