The Ave Bar Holding Ethnic Doll Toy Drive Until Christmas

The Ave Bar was recognized by the San Francisco Fire Fighter's Toy Program in 2013. Photo courtesy of Lucia Fuentes Zarate.

This weekend, the Ave Bar on Ocean Avenue in Ingleside will hold its annual Ethnic Doll Drive to collect dolls that better represent the children to which they will be given along with any donations they can get.

In 2010, the Ave’s owners Bomani Caungula and Lucia Fuentes Zarate started the Ethnic Doll Drive with the San Francisco Fire Fighters Toy Program in an attempt to improve girls’ access to dolls that look like them.

“People are caught up in the idea that you need to look like a Kardashian, spend a lot of money on clothes or post to Instagram constantly to be considered pretty,” Caungula said. “We need people to love themselves.”

Playing with a doll that looks like them helps girls build their self-esteem and confidence, Caungula said.

Zarate said that ethnic dolls tend to be more rare and more expensive than white dolls. She often shops online for dolls to donate, although stores have a small selection of ethnic dolls.

Instead of buying a simple doll in a dress, Zarate searches for doctor and lawyer dolls.

“I try to find dolls that mean something,” Zarate said.

Cuangula, a firefighter, started the drive in as part of the San Francisco Fire Fighter’s Toy Program, a 501c3 nonprofit dedicated to donating toys to children during the holidays.

The Toy Program was founded in 1949 and, in 2016, was responsible for distributing over 200,000 toys to more than 40,000 disadvantaged children, according to its website.

In 2013, the Toy Program recognized The Ave for its “outstanding support” of the drive.  

The toy drive has not been as successful as Caungula would like in recent years.

“We need a lot more support,” he said. “Last year was terrible.”

In September, the Ave was recognized as a Legacy Business by the Small Business Commission.

“The Ave Bar is noted for its friendly atmosphere and is proud to have so many regular customers, some of which belong to the third or fourth generation of families that have frequented the bar,” the bar’s application for Legacy Business status states.

A barrel to collect dolls will be out until Christmas. The bar is also accepting checks and donations to benefit the Toy Program.

This weekend, the bar will celebrate with barbecue plates for sale from 1 – 3 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 18 and Sunday, Nov. 19. (On Sundays, the Ave has $10 bottomless mimosas and complimentary hot dogs between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.)

The Ave Bar is located at 1607 Ocean Ave. For more information, visit their website at

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