With a new month comes a new Giving Project. For December, it’s Miracle En El Barrio, a long-time toy drive that’s given Christmas toys to nearly 40,000 Tucson kids on the Southside over the past two decades.

Now in its 21st year, Miracle En El Barrio is still collecting and distributing toys to thousands of kids yearly who may not otherwise get one at Christmas.

It’s a cause that hits close to home for co-founders Steve Nunez and Jon Volpe.

“We both know what it’s like to wake up Christmas morning and not have a toy,” says Steve Nunez, co-founder of Miracle En El Barrio.

Despite their own success, these two Tucsonans haven’t forgotten their roots. Now Nova Home Loans executives recognized a need on the Southside 21 years ago.

“Let’s not, you know, let these kids go without a toy at Christmastime, cause both Steve and I know what that means,” Volpe tells me.

In 2002, they got together and developed a plan.

Nunez, once a KGUN 9 reporter himself, played the role of Santa Claus that first year, handing out donated toys.

“500 toys. Well, 700 kids showed up,” Nunez recollected. “We’re out of toys.”

The fix? They quickly ran to a nearby store and cleared out the toy shelves.

“We made sure that every kid received a gift at Christmastime that year,” says Volpe.

Now 21 years later, they’ve upgraded the Santa.

“We have the real Santa from the North Pole come down,” Volpe says.

And he now delivers more than 2,000 toys. This is last year’s Miracle En El Barrio Christmas toy giveaway party. Kids lines up hours ahead of time to wait their turn:

For Gionni Viera-Rodriguez the wait last year was worth it for his new bike.

“It was his reason to come in the morning, to ask Santa Claus for a bike,” Gionni’s mom told KGUN 9 at the 2022 giveaway.

For Nunez, it’s those smiles that let him know they’re making miracles happen.

“It’s just so gratifying. It’s so rewarding because we’re making a difference. But at the same time, we realize it’s not enough. So we work harder every year,” Nunez tells me.

This year’s Miracle En El Barrio Toy Giveaway Party will take place Friday, Dec. 22 at St. John’s Church, 602 W. Ajo Way from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.

You can support this year’s toy drive by donating directly to Miracle En El Barrio online here. Donations should be made prior to Thursday, Dec. 21.

Tucsonans can also or drop toys for the giveaway. Miracle En El Barrio gives toys for kids up to age 14, so gifts for a variety of age ranges are all welcome at the following drop-op locations:

Any NOVA Home Loans Branch:

6245 E. Broadway Blvd., #400 1650 E. River Road, #108 6893 N. Oracle Road, #121 1630 E. River Road, #120 and #212

Any Pyramid Federal Credit Union Branch:

5801 E. Broadway Blvd. 5280 E. Grant Road 4911 E. Broadway Blvd. 4491 N. Oracle Road 8235 S. Houghton Road