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People Who Make SA Great: East-side activist organizes annual toy drive

She's a talk show host, entrepreneur, studio mogul and a black belt in tae kwon do. But during Christmas, she's also a do-it-yourself Secret-Santa elf, looking out for east-side families who need help celebrating the season with their kids.

SAN ANTONIO — Her party's a wrap. Scotch tape and scissors keep a team of Secret Santas busy all day just before Christmas.

"I'm hoping that we bring back communities, that we bring back that trust in each other, and we just kinda take care of each other,” said Neka Cleaver, holding court over the gift-wrappers with a long red-and-white Santa Claus cap draped over her shoulders, “cause I think that's God's way."

Today, it's her way. Cleaver's an east-side activist, organizer and the owner of the 'Tha1 Media Hub,' a modest east-side studio for online broadcasting.

"And Tha1 Media Hub has Tha1 TV, radio, printing and A-V recording,” she said. "Like the Rupert Murdoch of the east-side, but cuter!" She cackles with an infectious laugh.

Today, her studio is the collection site for an annual toy drive to help low-income families enjoy Christmas. Cleaver invited several like-minded friends to help wrap the gifts. They already have dozens of gifts wrapped and ready, under an artificial Christmas tree in the corner.

It's one of many projects Cleaver hosts to build bonds, raise money for local charities and strengthen neighborhood ties. She hosts an awards ceremony to recognize other community leaders, as well as concerts, recitals and networking events.

"A little bit of effort created this much wealth within our community,” she said. “And I can't stop yet, cause I got more to do,” she laughed again, “but this is what I strive for!"

Her long-time friend and colleague Lisa Jackson agreed. "Something in her soul is saying, 'I need to give back to the community.'” Jackson took the day off to help with the gift preparation. “It doesn’t have to be in a corporate setting,” she added. “It doesn't have to be in this setting. It just needs to be somewhere, she just needs to give back."

These gifts will go to deserving children, and the drive itself, Cleaver said, helps others learn to give.

"I can plant the seed, a lot of people to turn into givers, we see it every year. After this happens, we see people who don't give... start giving."

She's given plenty, and has no plans to stop. Once these gifts are gone, she'll move on to the next neighborhood project.

"So the focus went from taking over the world, to bringing the world together,” she said. “ I just need about 2 million other people."

And she's likely to recruit just that many one day, to change the world, starting with east San Antonio. That's why she's another one of the people who make San Antonio great.