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San Diego shop owner invests in community organization where he spent his youth

San Diego—John Eppstein spent a lot of time growing up in Boys & Girls Clubs and was always appreciative of what they do for children. So when a friend invited him to join the board when he first opened his shop, John’s Automotive Care, in San Diego, he jumped at the opportunity. His first course of action was to start a toy drive to benefit club members during the holidays.

“I have a lot of friends who are willing to help,” he said. “It really helps to have a personal tie and investment to a cause because it adds strength to the effort and people work harder.”

Every year the shop sends out “thank you” cards to its customers with $10 off their next visit with an option of bringing in a toy, which then affords them $25 off.

“We also have customers who buy toys throughout the year and bring them in,” said Eppstein, who added that one woman makes handmade dresses, suits and clothing for dolls. “We have a lot of regular customers who look forward to it.”

“We also have customers who buy toys throughout the year and bring them in,” says Eppstein, who added that one woman makes handmade dresses, suits and clothing for dolls.

While some customers bring toys throughout the year, the drive officially starts in the beginning of November. Once the toys are collected — 500-600 each year — they are distributed among the seven Boys & Girls Clubs of East County.

The children write letters to Santa and Eppstein invites them into a roomful of toys where they can pick what they like before schools let out for holiday break. Another friend of Eppstein’s dresses up as Santa and recently received children last week at one of the clubs, one by one, as they selected toys.

“It’s cool because they’ll often pick one out for their siblings, too,” Eppstein said.

There are also a few smaller efforts in the drive, including a friend of Eppstein’s who owns a bike shop and donates in collaboration with John’s Automotive Care.

“We all work together to get toys to the kids. There are a lot of people who want to help, but they just don’t how or who to turn to or who to trust. We try to give people an avenue because they trust us — it helps to kick-start people.”

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