UC Davis Health Employee group raised thousands of dollars for Oak Park Preschool

Gifts delivered a week before Christmas


You could feel the holiday spirit beaming in the room. Oak Park preschoolers squealed with joy as they saw UC Davis Health’s African American Faculty and Staff Association (AAFSA) deliver massive stacks of presents.

One preschooler wearing a decorative reindeer headband giddily exclaimed, “Oh my goodness, oh my goodness. Thank you for all the gifts. Merry Christmas!”

AAFSA members, Cornel Wade and Lee Smith, with Oak Park Preschoolers

2022 marks the 24th annual AAFSA penny drive.

James Aboagye, chair of the AAFSA employee resource group, shared, “The penny drive guarantees that the children have at least one gift under their Christmas tree. We wanted to help take some of the stress off our parents who may be financially strained during the holidays. All the donations collected went towards purchasing gifts for children at the Oak Park Preschool."

AAFSA reached a new record this year, raising more than $2,400 dollars to fund gifts for children at Oak Park Preschool, Inc.

AAFSA has touched the hearts of many preschoolers attending our preschool over the past ten years. Their gracefulness has brought happiness to many preschoolers’ faces during the Christmas season, while also helping teach them the importance of kindness, giving and thankfulness. AAFSA has been a great blessing to Oak Park Preschool.Arcy Currie, MHRM, Oak Park Preschool Program Director

Gifts were delivered to two preschool sites and included a variety of items for each child, such as fuzzy toys, a LCD writing tablet, bubbles, books, fancy LED light scooters and much more. One of the sites also received a brand-new bookshelf.

Gift bags delivered to Oak Park Preschool

Cornel Wade, long-standing member of AAFSA, said, “Seeing the excitement and the smiles on the children’s faces are the perfect example of what the giving season is all about!”

Several AASFA members gave a special shout out to Charlene Green, assistant dean of admissions, outreach, and diversity at UC Davis School of Medicine, for individually wrapping the heaps of presents.

Elizabeth Dennis-Bell, AAFSA treasurer, said, “Charlene is a life saver! We couldn’t have made this delivery in time without her.”

More than a local nonprofit

This program isn’t just a local preschool. For Elizabeth Dennis-Bell, Oak Park Preschool will always have a special place in her heart.

Several years ago, Elizabeth struggled to find the right program for her youngest child. It took three preschools – even a well-regarded Christian school – until she found the right one, Oak Park Preschool.

Elizabeth recalled, “I had to follow my momma bear instincts. The other schools didn’t provide my youngest the kind of environment he needed. Going through the first two preschool programs was a nightmare!”

When looking for another site, she came across Oak Park Preschool. It was conveniently located near work, so she figured she’d give the school a try. Not long after enrolling her youngest into the program, she began to see him flourish.

“They met him at his level and created a safe space for him to mature at his own speed. Honestly, enrolling him in this program was the best decision I ever made. They have a loving, almost family-like feeling.”

As a parent, it was a joy for Elizabeth to make short commutes to see her kid perform at a recital or pop-in for a lunch date with her “mini-me.”

“I absolutely love being able to give back to the place that helped my son and me. They do so much for our community while also giving affordable, safe childcare that leads with love and education. My son is now 13 years old, doing amazing in school and plays the piano and drums. He is the most creative person I have ever met, and I believe that is largely in part to the great start he had at Oak Park Preschool.”

Approximately 120 children from the Oak Park neighborhood benefit from the preschool programs.

To experience the joys of the AAFSA Penny Drive yourself, click here to watch a video from their 2020 gift drop-off.

Arcy Currie, Oak Park Preschool Program Director, providing certificate of appreciation to AAFSA members, Elizabeth Dennis-Bell and Inel Haynes.

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