Nonprofit started by 6-year-old expands, hosts fifth annual toy drive in Long Beach

Photos by Sebastian Echeverry | Signal Tribune
The nonprofit Love in the Mirror, which a 6-year-old Long Beach resident founded, hosted its fifth annual toy-drive event on Sunday, Dec. 17. Children from low-income families were invited to attend and pick toys for the holidays. The nonprofit helped donate 1,000 toys.

Scenes of homeless people sporadically camped along a concrete stretch know as Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles might cause some individuals to sympathize with them but fail to take action to help.

Jonas Corona, who is now 14 but founded the nonprofit Love in the Mirror (LITM) when he was 6, recalled the day he and his family took to the homeless encampments to give food and clothes to the needy.

At the age of 4, Corona, his aunt and his mother took to Los Angeles’s Skid Row and helped the homeless for two years. He told the Signal Tribune during an interview Sunday, that while he was there, he saw countless adults show up to receive aid. It wasn’t until a young homeless child appeared that Corona truly felt the impact of homelessness.

The nonprofit Love in the Mirror hosted a toy drive at the Jenny Oropeza Community Center on Sunday, Dec. 17. Nonprofit volunteers gave out 1,000 toys to low-income families. Pictured here is a line of families waiting to enter the center to select toys.

“By the end of the second year, the first homeless child came to receive help,” he said. “It was very heartbreaking, and it made me want to help out more than I was at that time.”

He said he was shocked to see a boy his age in such a position. It was that encounter that compelled young Corona to help those in his community.

With the help of some family, friends and outreach operations, Corona’s nonprofit began to expand and reach that initial goal to help others.

The nonprofit has continued helping low-income families through donations from local businesses and organizations, and that assistance continues today.

On Sunday, Dec. 17, LITM hosted a toy drive in the Jenny Oropeza Community Center in Long Beach.

LITM collaborated with local businesses and individuals to collect toys for the drive, which is the fifth annual event the nonprofit has hosted. Through the program, LITM has provided new toys and books to over 1,800 children, according to Corona.

This year, LITM volunteers hoped to distribute at least 1,000 more toys to help low-income families.

Susana Torres, Long Beach resident, took her six children to the toy drive. Her oldest child is 17 years old, and her youngest is 2 years old. She told the Signal Tribune that she heard about the event through Facebook.
“We’re low-income parents, so this is a good opportunity for us to bring our kids,” she said. “Sometimes we don’t have the income for gifts.”

Families from across Long Beach and the surrounding neighborhoods waited in a line that wrapped around the center to pick out toys with their children.

Once the children selected their favorite toys and books, they had the opportunity to meet Santa Claus and take a picture with him.

To facilitate the event, LITM recruited volunteers from various youth institutions including schools, such as Semillitas Preschool.

Maggie Muñeton, the founder and director of Semillitas who also taught Corona in kindergarten, attended the event to help him.

Muñeton taught at the New City charter school that the Long Beach Unified School District closed down in 2014.

While she taught there, she met Corona and his parents when he was 5 years old— a year after he had said he decided to start his nonprofit. Muñeton said that, since then, she has supported his nonprofit and now views him as part of her family.

She told the Signal Tribune that she thinks part of Corona’s ambitions to help his community came from the teachings of New City. She said the school focused on civil services.

“We were able to support his dream,” she said. “When he saw children on Skid Row, he came back with questions.”

Corona’s actions to help others was captured in the spotlight. At a young age, Corona has been interviewed by various members of the media and has appeared on The Ricki Lake Show and the Nickelodeon Halo Awards.

He also mentioned that adults have always tried to tell him how to run his organization.

During a toy drive on Sunday, Dec. 17, Juan and Maria Muñeton (left) volunteered at a toy drive hosted by a nonprofit called Love in the Mirror.

Despite the attention, Corona said the most difficult part of his dream has been reaching out for help.

“It’s been a learning process, but just speaking to people has been the hardest thing,” he said. “I couldn’t have achieved anything without talking to people, so that’s been the hardest thing and the only thing.”

More than 50,000 people have been helped throughout the nonprofit’s existence, according to Corona.

“I didn’t think I’d be where I am today. At 6 years old, I just wanted to help people,” he said. “I didn’t want to make a big deal about it and make a name for myself. I just wanted to give back to my community, but then I actually learned that I needed to do this.”

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