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Artist formerly known as Kanye West makes big donation to Englewood gift giveaway: ‘We need this type of joy’

Ye donated clothing and most of the 4,000 toys that were handed out to a parade of children who filtered through Kennedy-King College’s gymnasium Sunday.

Kids try to pick out toys to take home during a Christmas gift giveaway, Sunday, Dec. 19, 2021, at Kennedy–King College in Englewood.
Kids try to pick out toys to take home during a Christmas gift giveaway, Sunday, Dec. 19, 2021, at Kennedy–King College in Englewood.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Christmas came early for scores of families who flocked to Englewood’s Kennedy-King College on Sunday for a gift giveaway sponsored in large part by the artist formerly known as Kanye West.

West, who recently changed his name to simply Ye, donated clothing and most of the 4,000 toys that were handed out to the parade of children who filtered through the school’s gymnasium, according to Ald. Stephanie Coleman (16th), who organized the event with the help of business and community leaders.

“I’m just so appreciative of Kanye for giving back and never forgetting about Chicago. And [for] understanding the need and filling in the gap for those children who don’t have the resources for a holiday, who are missing their fathers or have lost their parents to gun violence,” said Coleman.

“It isn’t about just Christmas, but it’s a day about unity,” she added. “And without unity, there is no community.”

While Ye wasn’t in attendance, Santa Claus was there to greet the stream of smiling children who bounced throughout the gym while carefully selecting toys and collecting the clothing and free food that were also offered.

Joseph Williams, who lives in Englewood and has five kids with another on the way, said it was “amazing to see so many organizations come together to bless the Englewood community.”

“So many families can benefit from something like this,” said Williams, the founder of Mr. Dad’s Father’s Club, which aims to get fathers and other role models involved in kids’ lives through literacy and mentoring.

Joseph Williams, right, and his family take a photo with Santa during a toy giveaway, Sunday, Dec. 19, 2021, at Kennedy–King College in Englewood.
Joseph Williams, right, and his family take a photo with Santa during a toy giveaway, Sunday, Dec. 19, 2021, at Kennedy–King College in Englewood.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

“[There’s] a lot of babies who may have not have gotten anything or whatever the case. But going through a pandemic, this is what we needed,” he added. “We need this type of joy and everybody coming together like this.”

Williams’ 7-year-old son, Joe, said he was excited to grab a Nerf gun at the event. “It’s very fun,” he said.

However, Joe’s really hoping Santa will bring him a computer to play his favorite video game, Fortnite. Asked if he’s on Santa’s nice list, his younger sister quickly spoke up in his defense.

“He’s been a good boy,” said 5-year-old Serenity, who grabbed a squishy ball during the giveaway and wants a giant teddy bear from Santa.

Although Sunday’s giveaway was a joyous occasion, Coleman and Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th) both said it reflects the glaring need in the communities they serve, which have been disproportionately impacted by gun violence, disinvestment and mass incarceration.

“We could afford to take care of the people in our communities,” Taylor, whose ward includes Kennedy-King, said of the city’s finances. “There’s just no political will.

“And so while this is the season of giving, myself and Alderwoman Coleman, we do this on a consistent basis because we care about our communities.”