Christmas party and free gifts Sunday in the name of Charlie Reid
on December 14, 2011
Garron Cooper grew up in North Richmond.
And on Dec. 18, he’ll be in central Richmond, just like his great-grandfather, Charles R. Reid, would have wanted.
“He believed in helping all children, regardless of who they were or where they came from,” Cooper said. “We just want to carry that on.”
Cooper and dozens of other volunteers – many descendents of Reid, a North Richmond icon – plan to serve more than 1,000 children and parents with food and gifts at Sunday’s Charles Reid Christmas Party, an annual event supported by The Charles Reid Foundation.
The event is scheduled for noon-4 p.m. Sunday in the Richmond PAL Community Center at 2200 Macdonald Ave.
Sunday will mark the 64th consecutive year the Christmas party will bring cheer and gifts and time with Santa Claus to underprivileged youth in Richmond.
It began in 1947, when Reid, then a 49-year-old director of Shields Park in North Richmond, decided to organize a community Christmas party. His wife would handle the food and decorations.
“He had a megaphone and a sound system in front of his house across the street from the park,” said his granddaughter, Rosalind Randle, who today is one of the party’s organizers. “And he would play Christmas carols and you could hear it all over the neighborhood for about a week before the party.”
Reid moved to North Richmond from Berkeley in 1934, and took a quick interest in the bustling youth sports culture, umpiring local baseball games and mentoring youth in the neighborhood. Reid had no trouble commanding respect on the athletic field, having been a multisport star at Berkeley High School and playing semi-pro baseball for several Bay Area teams, which at the time were segregated.
Later, as a coach and mentor, Reid helped develop young athletes, including City Councilman Nat Bates, 79, who was an exceptional pitcher in the 1950s and 1960s.
“He was such a presence in the neighborhood, especially with young people who he would mentor and help with sports,” said Belinda Taylor, another one of Reid’s granddaughters. “Eventually, the park and community center was renamed Shields-Reid in his honor.”
Reid died in 1979, at the age of 82, but his Christmas party for all has lived on.
A few years ago, organizers moved the event to the PAL center in Richmond, hoping that the larger and more centralized location could accommodate more people.
Most of the toys come from donations. There will be free food and entertainment also. And, of course, Santa will be there.
Traditionally, former pro football players have turned out to don the red suit, a group that has included Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Mike Merriweather, and Dallas Cowboys defensive back Benny Barnes, who grew up in Richmond and attended Kennedy High School.
“The message is that we want all kids to come out and celebrate Christmas with us,” Garron Cooper said.
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