Giving Drive spans borders, cultures, and generations.
On Saturday December 15, Ruben Torres, with some help from his friends, plans on loving his neighbors by organizing a toy, clothing and shoe drive for youth in Tijuana, Tecate, Rosarito and San Diego. Hosted by the fine folks at The Spot in Barrio Logan, the 3rd annual Love Thy Neighbor event will feature music by Karlos Paez, DJ Beto Perez, Rudy Roots and PEET-O Perez as well as an art show by Rebel, El ReSK and Fine Print.
Ruben Torres, a South San Diego native, used to spearhead the independent music label Rescue Records for the rock band P.O.D. and then started his own label, Cosa Nostra Records, where he managed, wrote and produced records for several successful artists. He eventually moved to Los Angeles where he had the opportunity to work with people and groups such as R. Kelly, Snoop Dogg, Run DMC, Robin Thicke, Papa Roach and many others. He eventually moved back to San Diego and launched his own Latin urban clothing line, Jefe Clothing.
On his Facebook page he says, “Love Thy Neighbor was simply an idea that was initiated by a couple of people, wanting to extend a hand to one person, who was in need of assistance across the border in Tijuana, Mex. This random act of kindness flourished into an annual event and has grown into a Southern California movement, which brings Christmas to thousands of the less fortunate, who otherwise, would not have Christmas south of the border. These events are held in predominantly Latino neighborhoods, such as Chula Vista and Barrio Logan.
With no budget or any assistance from churches and corporate sponsors, all donations come from within the community. In the course of the two day event, volunteers donate their time assisting at the drop off location collecting the toys, clothes and blankets, shoes, (new and used) which are disbursed the next day into the hands of the less fortunate. This year donations will be delivered to Tijuana, Rosarito, Tecate, and throughout San Diego’s homeless communities.”
Through Facebook, I messaged Ruben a few questions about this worthwhile event. Here are his responses.
Why a toy/clothing drive?
We saw a need for help in Tijuana, especially amongst our own community having so much family and friends living in poverty just a few minutes away. I have a soft spot in my heart for Tijuana. I was born there, I’m one of them!
What was the reason to start this project?
My brother Charlie and I went down to TJ to help a friend shoot footage for a documentary. One of the guys that we interviewed was a friend of my brother and we asked him what he wanted us to bring him the next time we came down. He asked for a basketball! I kinda laughed and said, “Why?! You’re as short as me! What are you gonna do with a basketball?” He said, “No, not for me. For the kids. There’s a basketball court down the street but no one plays because the kids don’t have a ball. I just want to give them something.” So, we said let’s do something better than that. Let’s bring you a gang of stuff!
The first year we did this event we held it at Nitti’s Tattoo Parlor in Chula Vista. We had about a week and a half to put the first one together and it was a success! So it only made sense that we continue to help if we have the resources. It’s not about charity, it’s about humanity! So it all started with one basketball!
Why The Spot in Barrio Logan?
The Spot shares the same passion to want to help the community. Milo and the staff at The Spot have made an art lover out of me and have always supported my events. I’m always there even when there isn’t an event and everyone assumes that I’m on staff too! It’s a cool family vibe and I’m honored to work alongside them!
We all run in the same circles in the South Bay so we’ve known each other for years. I love what they do and what they’re about. Milo came up with the idea to get a Pod for drop offs because last year’s donations were so overwhelming that we were running out of room. My friend Kania Burnette reached out to them and hooked it all up. They donated it for the cause! Milo wants to wrap it like a present and add logos. We’ll see what we do with it!
How successful were the previous drives?
The past drives have been a challenge. It’s a two day process. We collect the donations on a Saturday and deliver them personally the very next day. We tried to make a show out of the last drop off event. We held it at The Spot and we had the Nitti’s Tattoo family do all live tattooing and display all of their art. We had live music by Karlos Paez and the Afrojazziacs. DJ Beto Perez and Rudy Roots have been down since day one to host and DJ for all of my events. The first time we went to TJ to deliver we had a couple hundred people and the last one had about 1200 people show up! This year we’re accepting donations from local clothing companies and random folks for us to be able to raffle off some really cool stuff.
How many and who are the other people working with you on the drive?
Well, we don’t have an actual staff yet but we have had a few solid team members that help out every year. Which I appreciate dearly. Grain of Salt Charities has been helping since day one and have held their own toy drives and they feed the homeless throughout the year as well. For the past two years we have done this with no help from any churches or corporate sponsors or any type of financial donations. Just family and friends that want to be a blessing.
My brother Charlie and I started this thing and we have teamed up with others that believe in the movement and have stuck with us. Beto Perez and Rudy Roots have been with us since the beginning and now LV, Max, Chris and Milo from The Spot have come beside us with this to help make the vision a reality. This year we are extending the giving into Rosarito and Tecate. We have teamed up with some local organizations like Dreams For Change to help us disburse into San Diego’s homeless shelters and shelters for kids. The YMCA Camp Surf in Imperial Beach reached out to donate as well. It’s an honor to see the community come together for a great cause.
How do you disperse the items?
A few of us get together and drive into Los Laureles in Tijuana to drop the stuff off. Last year was a real blessing to have my family and my kids go down there and be a part of the delivery. The border is always tough on us when we take stuff across. It’s funny because it almost feels like we’re smuggling into Mexico! Everything that is donated is delivered by us personally. It’s a challenge because we are not a nonprofit yet. Just a grassroots crew of people wanting to give back so it’s understandable to have some skeptics. Plus, who the heck is Ruben Torres? And why should I give him anything? I’ve heard it all! And it’s all good. I would question it too!
So that’s why we openly invite the community to join us to see firsthand what we’re doing and experience the process. We have had random people just show up and say, “Hey, I saw your video and I want to help take stuff into TJ.” We can always use drivers to help take the goods down there. You’re all invited! It’s really not about me. I’m not doing all the giving. It’s the community doing all the giving and I just happen to be the name and face that’s on this thing. It’s an honor!
How does it make you feel when you hand out the items?
The best feeling in the world is doing something for someone that can do nothing for you in return. Hearing the stories later of someone getting a job because of clothes that were donated or helping an elder with medical equipment like a wheelchair and seeing the gratitude on the faces is a feeling that can’t be explained. It’s a blessing!
What other info about the project would you like me to include in my column?
This little Love Thy Neighbor thing has grown into a movement with help coming from as far as Modesto, CA, Los Angeles County and Orange County. We even have people driving from Las Vegas to drop off stuff for this. The San Diego Renegades, the So Cal Renegades and the Los Angeles Renegades roller derby teams have come alongside of us to help carry out the vision and had an event in LA to collect items. We also have Masked Republic sending over a few luchadores to help add entertainment to the event. I’m hoping to inspire and motivate other people to stand up and make a difference.
Your past does not matter, especially when you can help someone’s future. All the odds were stacked against me where we grew up, doing the stuff we did, and around the stuff that was going down. I should be dead or locked up. I’m a kid from South San Diego, not born in the country and a high school drop out hoping to give hope to others like me that thought they couldn’t make a difference. We are hoping to become a nonprofit in 2013 and keep helping the community throughout the year so any and all help is always needed.
I would love to find a headquarters, possibly in Barrio Logan, for everything we do. So, if anyone hears of anything let me know! Also, this year we are accepting monetary donations and checks can be made out to [our fiscal sponsor] Media Arts Center per Love Thy Neighbor. Thank you all for the support and the love. It’s appreciated!
This is just one of many beautiful things that happen in Barrio Logan. Help Ruben Torres, his friends and The Spot love our neighbors. Come down to The Spot in Barrio Logan (1835 Main St. San Diego, CA 92113) between 2pm and 8pm this Saturday, December 15. Bring new, unwrapped toys and new or like-new clothing, shoes and blankets. Listen to some music. Check out the art on the walls. Buy a raffle ticket. Donate some funds. And support this brother’s movement because it’s all about love.
For more information on how you can help Love Thy Neighbor contact Ruben Torres via email at connectedwithrubentorres@