In the heart of Long Beach resides hometown hero Tito Rodriguez, whose dedication to giving back to the community has earned him the endearing title of the “Hood Santa.” Growing up amid adversity, Rodriguez experienced firsthand the challenges of limited means. Rodriguez was determined to rewrite this narrative for others in his community and has since created the Local Hearts Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to helping underserved areas of Long Beach.
Raised in Long Beach’s Sixth District, Rodriguez was brought up by his mother, who struggled to support five children as a street vendor. The family’s financial constraints often meant that holidays were overlooked, and celebrations were a rarity in their lives. At six years old, Rodriguez experienced a personal tragedy when his father took his own life on Christmas Eve, leaving an indelible mark on his childhood.
Growing up under these circumstances led Tito down a troubled path, resulting in a stint in juvenile hall. Determined to turn his life around, Rodriguez delved into the music industry, where fate introduced him to HJ Chong, a colleague who eventually became his co-founder in the Local Hearts Foundation.
Their nonprofit journey began with a simple desire to give back. Rodriguez, inundated with sponsorships and donations, found himself in possession of surplus clothing, shoes, and more. He wanted to redistribute these gifts to the community, so he headed to an underserved area in Long Beach. To embody the spirit of generosity, he wore a Santa Claus outfit he purchased inexpensively online, and so began his journey as the local “Hood Santa,” a name given to him by a child he had donated items to.
What started as Rodriguez donating items out of his car in a makeshift Santa suit evolved into the expansive organization that Local Hearts Foundation is today—a force that has provided assistance to thousands of children and individuals in need.
The nonprofit’s initiatives have expanded to include an annual backpack drive, Thanksgiving turkey giveaways, and even Easter-themed events, providing pancakes and Easter baskets in a gesture of festivity and joy.
Their impact was not just felt by the recipients but was recognized by prestigious platforms. In October 2022, Rodriguez was honored at the George H.W. Bush Points of Light Awards Celebration, acknowledging his role as an “inspiration spotlight” for his profound impact on the community. The City of Long Beach has also presented him with a certificate of recognition under the Hood Santa alias.
For Rodriguez, these charitable endeavors hold personal significance. Having never experienced the joy of a backpack or school shopping himself, his commitment to these events is deeply rooted in his own childhood struggles. He pours his heart into these initiatives, aiming to inspire and empower the youth of underserved communities to chase their dreams and believe in a brighter future through education and opportunity.
Today, the Local Hearts Foundation continues to thrive, fueled by the community’s support and donations. Rodriguez’s vision to create a culture of love and prosperity resonates through the foundation’s relentless efforts to uplift those in need. His story is one of power of compassion and resilience, proving that one individual’s determination can spark a ripple effect of positive change in an entire community.
To support Tito Rodriguez’s mission as Hood Santa and contribute to the Local Hearts Foundation’s initiatives, donations can be made through their website at localheartsfoundation.org.