Men’s basketball team volunteers at local shelter3 min read

The Dons play Santa, help mothers and kids at Next Door’s holiday boutique

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Rajvir Kaur/La Voz Weekly

Change of pace- The Dons take a timeout from basketball to volunteer during the holidays.

Rajvir Kaur

The De Anza College men’s basketball team volunteered at Next Door: Solutions to Domestic Violence’s holiday boutique  in San Jose on Dec. 15, 2012.
“It feels good to give a little bit back, to serve the community that has given so much to you,” said freshman center Gal Shapira.
Next Door “seeks to end domestic violence in the moment and for all time,” according to the organization’s website. It provides a safe place for battered women and their children through a variety of services such as shelter, advocacy, crisis intervention, and prevention activities.
Every year, during the holiday boutique, mothers and children come in and pick out gifts for each other. One room is filled with donated toys and gifts for children, and another filled with donated gifts for mothers.
A pair of pink flamingo earrings and another pair in cerulean stood out among the gifts for mothers, which included clothing, purses. and jewelery.  
Among gifts for children were  Barbie dolls and Hot Wheels, footballs and basketballs, educational material and clothing.
The players helped set and display gift items and later helped the mothers and children. Together, a mother and a basketball player, or a child with a basketball player, picked out gifts as a team.
Brenda Vieira, manager of support services at Next Door, said the boutique was created after the staff members noticed that there wasn’t a place where children could shop for their mothers. But the boutique gave children a chance to give something back to their mothers.
“I think, for children, that is really special because they don’t get to do that if the family doesn’t have the funds,” she said.  
Freshman forward Shaquille Gilbert described his experience at the boutique as “Santa-like.”
“I never got to do [anything] like that, and I really did feel like Santa because giving the children the presents and seeing them smile made me smile and [it] felt good,” he said.
“It was fun helping the parents out,” said freshman center Devontae Bryant, recalling how he helped a mother pick out a gift for her daughter.
He said what he took away from the experience was to not to take things for granted.
“I know some people that don’t have things – that changed me,” said Bryant.
Head coach Jason Damjanovic said he hoped his guys were able to take something away from this experience and see that they have things “a little bit better” than they think.
Many of his players get down at times because they come from single-parent households, or other states, and they are paying a lot of money for food, housing and such, he said. But when put into perspective, he said, things could always be worse.  
“We’re blessed, we’re lucky,” said Damjanovic “If you can go do something and put a smile on a kid’s face or a mother’s face and that their son or daughter picked a gift out for them … and [know] you had a little small piece in that, that’s the most beneficial of all.”

Wrapping stations – Donated gift wrapping supplies help mothers and children keep their gifts a surprise. (Rajvir Kaur/La Voz Weekly)

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