Oakland – As the kids played in the gym at Frick Impact Academy in East Oakland, Mark Burks had a smile on his face. The founder of the non-profit Chosen 2 Lead was excited his organization’s Fourth Annual Christmas Toy Giveaway was helping to make Christmas a happy occasion for families and kids in Oakland.
“I am just glad we are able to give back and make someone happy during the holidays,” said Burks. “We’ve been doing this for the past four years, filling a need. We are trying to build on this and improve this every year.”
Chosen 2 Lead was founded in 2007 as a young men’s mentoring group out of Acts Full Gospel Church.
Burks, who has been a member of Acts Full Gospel Church since 1998, says his vision for the group was to help young men accept responsibility and give back, not only in the church, but also in the community. Besides the annual Toy Giveaway, the group holds leadership classes, attends rallies and mentors young men in schools and within the community.
As the kids lined up at the toy giveaway, they were able to select a variety of toys ranging from basketballs, soccer balls, board games, dolls and much more. These toys were donated by businesses, individuals and organizations.
Adarious Payton, a former member of Chosen 2 Lead, was back in Oakland during the Christmas break and came out to help his former group. A graduate of Bishop O’Dowd High School, Payton went on to attend and graduate from DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois, where he now resides.
“I came out to support Chosen 2 Lead and this is something that the community needs,” said Payton, “Things like this gives families hope during Christmas and the holiday season.”
Payton said he is glad he was a part of the organization as a youth because it gave him hope as well.
“I didn’t have a dad at home or a strong male figure in my life, so when I was at church, this program helped to inspire me to achieve and it made me want to go to college and do things to help people.”
Burks said that stories like Payton’s are what his group wants to achieve, helping young men become responsible leaders where ever they go.
“Adarious’ story is one of many that Chosen 2 Lead has been a part of,” said Burks. “We hope to have many more over the next few years.”