Basketball players play Santa’s little helpers at Next Door


Rajvir Kaur

(from left) Nate Viera, Joe Foster, Kyle Conner, Chris Shaw, and Jason Damjanovic volunteer at Next Door: Solutions to Domestic Violence’s holiday boutique on Dec. 21, 2013.

Rajvir Kaur, Staff Writer

Student athletes from the De Anza College men’s basketball team played Santa’s little helpers as they volunteered at Next Door: Solutions to Domestic Violence shelter’s annual holiday boutique on Dec. 21, 2013.

“It’s always for a good cause,” said Jason Damjanovic, head coach of men’s basketball. He said he wants his guys to learn “to give back” and see the difference volunteering for a few hours can make in a person’s life.

Damjanovic, along with four team members, drove to the shelter’s office in San Jose.

“The 15 guys that are on this roster … they are very privileged student athletes,” Damjanovic said.

For the gift boutique, mothers are led to a separate room filled with donated goods and toys for children while children are led into another room that is filled with gifts for mothers.
Each room has a wrapping station so that mother and child are able to wrap their gifts in secret until it is time to open those gifts.

Toys for all ages lined table after table in the kids’ gift shop. Barbie Dolls, including Disney princesses like Elsa, Merida and Cinderella, along with Hello Kitty, Doc McStuffins, and LEGO’s Chima stood out amongst hundreds of toys.

For the older kids, there were clothes among other goods. A red faux wrap knee-length dress hung next to an identical blue one. An official black and grey Nike foot bright orange official basketballs, and an artist sketch kit were also available. In the mom’s room, clothes lined one side of the room; purses and scarves were on the opposite side while jewelry, accessories, and beauty products lined the middle tables.

As mothers picked out gifts for their children, kids put together gifts for their mothers. One clothing item, plus one accessory and one health or beauty product made up a gift for mom.

Combinations like gold rounded square earrings along with an army green button down dress shirt paired with a mock Elizabeth Taylor White Diamonds perfume were among many gifts made for mothers.

Freshman guard Kyle Conner said it was a great experience helping kids pick out gifts for their moms and helping moms pick out gifts for their kids. “[I had] a lot of fun with the little kids. We’re just as equal as everybody else. Just because someone doesn’t have as much as we have, they’re no worse and we’re no better than them,” said Conner. “It felt good to help out people who need help.”

Damjanovic said he wants his players to remember that not everybody is as fortunate as they are.

Next Door serves as a safe haven for women and children who have suffered from domestic violence. The shelter strives to “end domestic violence in the moment and for all time,” as stated on the organization’s website.

Their services include shelters, advocacy, crisis intervention, and prevention methods. Donna Knowlton, development officer from Next Door, said the boutique was a great success because more mothers and children were able to have a holiday who normally wouldn’t have one.

She said they have received thank you notes and letters showing what an impact the boutique and its volunteers has on those mothers and children. During the annual boutique, mothers and children have the opportunity to pick out gifts for each other without having to pay a single penny.