On Christmas morning, a group of families in need around the borough woke up to find that Santa had delivered his goodies.
Santa’s elves, otherwise known as volunteers from Bronx-Manhattan North Realtors Association and the Bronx YMCA, delivered packages to 25 needy families that fulfilled their Christmas wish-lists, and in some cases, provided winter necessities like heavy coats.
BMAR’s drive was named Operation Perry’s Kids in honor one of their board members, Perry Gault, who passed away this year and who was often a driving force behind the toy drive, said Eliezer Rodriguez, BMAR executive director.
This is the sixth year of the drive, he said, which has gone by two other names over the years.
Some toys were collected at BMAR’s 33rd annual holiday party on Wednesday, December 13 and others were purchased, in many cases fulfilling individual families’ specific requests.
The families who were the beneficiaries primarily work with the Bronx YMCA, with still others recommended by board members and a church.
“We wrote a list and checked it twice and then made calls to the families to tell them,” said Rodriguez, adding “We were there to bring them gifts and share the holiday spirit.”
Rodriguez said he believes that going into the recipients’ homes on Christmas Day makes the toy giveaway more meaningful.
“When you take the time to go into their living room and give them a gift with their name on it, it takes on a different meaning,” said Rodriguez.
Sharlene Brown, Bronx YMCA executive director, said that the toy drive was created out of the devastation that followed Superstorm Sandy in 2012, when 15 families on Staten Island and in the Bronx who lost their homes were the beneficiaries of the generosity.
The families are selected after consultation with the Y’s New American Welcome Center on Glebe Avenue.
“The reason to do it on Christmas day is the feeling that they and we get – it goes both ways,” said Brown, who volunteered to deliver the toys with her husband Bronx Criminal Court Judge Eugene Oliver.
Brown added: “I love to the see the kids…and when they see us there and they open the gifts they light up like small light bulbs. It just melts your heart.”
The response from the children makes all the work that goes into Operation Perry’s Kids worth it, she said.
This includes collecting the toys from the drive and also purchasing toys and clothing at stores like Modell’s and Toys ‘R’ Us, and sorting and bagging them for special delivery on Christmas Day, according to the endeavor’s participants.
Selenie Villar, of the Y’s New American Welcome Center, said that she uses case management techniques to select families, giving the highest priority to the neediest cases.
The 25 families received approximately 300 toys said Rodriguez, adding that four drivers along with helpers delivered individually labeled gifts in roughly three to four hours.
In the days leading up to Christmas, BMAR’s Morris Park office became like Santa’s workshop, he added.
Rodriguez said his two children and wife also helped him.