Paloma Toys Drive spreading cheer

Paloma Montano’s mannequin which she decorated for Christmas. Next year, she plans to do this for friends and family. -
Paloma Montano’s mannequin which she decorated for Christmas. Next year, she plans to do this for friends and family. -


In the heart of Corinth Hills, San Fernando, Paloma Montano is spreading joy, one toy at a time. Montano has turned a personal passion for collecting dolls into an annual Christmas toy drive that not only honours her late son, Sergio, but also brings smiles to the faces of countless less fortunate children across Trinidad.

Montano, 54, who began the toy drive in 2018, shared her inspiring journey and the magic she continues to weave through Paloma Toys Drive with Newsday.

“I’m a person accustomed to donating to orphanages,” she said, recounting the genesis of her mission. “One year, while visiting San Fernando, I saw donated dolls in no good condition at all. So, something resonated in me and an idea was birthed. Someone gave me a couple dolls as I'm a doll collector, and I cleaned them up, posted them on my Facebook page and reached out, asking if anyone had (dolls) to donate for me to clean up and give to less fortunate children.

New Barbie dolls collected for Paloma Toys Drive. -

"A friend saw the post and inboxed me (noting) that it could be the start of something. She gave me the idea to start a used toy drive, and that was the start of Paloma Used Doll Drive.” She advertised for me, and I also set up three locations for toys to be donated – north, south and central. Then I decided to start one for the boys ...I couldn't leave them out.”

The tragic loss of her only child, Sergio, in a vehicular accident, added a profound layer to Montano’s mission.

“Before the passing of Sergio, he used to go with me to a children’s home in Preysal, Couva. His death still weighs heavy on me, but I had to continue with my soul purpose of putting smiles on children’s faces.”

The visits to the children's home began in 2009 and continued yearly until 2012. In 2013, she was unemployed and could not carry out the mission, and Sergio's death in 2014 affected her tremendously. She resumed her charity work in 2016 donating groceries to the Hope Centre, San Fernando. While there, she observed the poor condition of the toys donated to the centre. That inspired her to clean up the dolls she received and give it to the centre in 2018.

Paloma Montano with her doll collection. -

The success of the used toy drive prompted Montano to transition to a new and grander scale in 2019.

“In 2019, God spoke to me and showed me to shut down the two used drives and start a new toy drive. The pandemic in 2020 reinforced this decision when orphanages stopped accepting used items.”

Challenges posed by the pandemic in 2020 didn’t deter Montano, instead, they inspired innovation. “Daddy God spoke again – 'advertise that you would be sanitising and mobilising.'” Thus, Paloma Toys Drive became an annual Christmas event.

“In 2020, I distributed in Maracas and Blanchisseuse. Children were surprised and not a toy remained. In 2021, we ventured to Mayaro, Manzanilla and Mafeking. Again, we were well received and brightened children’s faces with smiles from ear to ear.

Paloma Montano stands at the front of a photo of her son Sergio, who died in a vehicular accident in 2014. -

"In 2022, we went to Cedros, Icacos and Granville. Once again children were smiling and looking so overwhelmed with happiness. My heart leapt with joy to know I was fulfilling my purpose. The places I have visited thus far were God-inspired, and this year’s location was chosen by my friend, Timmy, who takes me on the drive. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer two years ago and when he tested in January this year, it was negative.”

He asked that Montano visits Moruga this year and she is granting him that wish.

She attributes the success of her toy drive to the generosity of immediate family, friends, and even Facebook associates abroad.

“Once money is entrusted to me, I buy good toys – original Barbie dolls, Hot Wheels cars, Avenger action heroes…good quality toys.

“I always think of the verse in the Bible: Matthew 7-9 which states, 'Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish will give him a snake? If you, then though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, now how much more will your Father in Heaven give good gifts to those who ask him,'” Montano said, pointing out she would buy toys she would have also gifted to her own deceased son, or nieces and nephews.

“My heartfelt wish whenever I go on the drive is to inspire one child to do what I’m doing for their community when they become an adult.”

Paloma Montano’s mannequin which she decorated for Christmas. Next year, she plans to do this for friends and family. -

Her message to adults is clear: “Don't find it too hard to give. Your children may have the latest electronic devices, but there are still children out there who treasure a simple toy. If you can, just give one. It would put a smile on a child.”

Even after facing surgery and medical challenges, Montano remains resolute.

“I no longer work, but it wouldn't stop me from continuing Paloma Toys Drive – driven to put a smile on a child.”

Her Christmas wish this year, like every year, is for good contributions to distribute to children.

“If people are interested in contributing, they can message on the Facebook page. Family members and friends contribute in the form of donations or cash.”

She has no plans to quit the cause.

“This drive shall continue once health and strength is on my side…until the sun sets and I am with my father in heaven, reunited to see my son who’s now an angel, and my deceased relatives.”

For the upcoming year, alongside her annual toy drive Montano envisions adopting the title of the "Mannequin Lady." Her creative initiative involves embellishing mannequins, offering a unique and festive alternative to traditional Christmas trees. This initiative is designed to bring joy not only to her single female friends and relatives but also to men who appreciate this distinctive concept.

Montano has also formed a group on Facebook – Trinidad and Tobago Doll Collectors and she invites those who collect dolls to join.

Montano’s unwavering commitment to spreading joy through Paloma Toys Drive continues to be a testament to the power of love, resilience, and the enduring spirit of Christmas.


"Paloma Toys Drive spreading cheer"

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