A Throggs Neck American Legion post is rolling up its sleeves to ‘make the season bright’ for children in need.
The Theodore Korony American Legion Post #253 is collecting both monetary donations and toys, and is already purchasing toys with funds collected from legionaries, to help needy children around the borough this holiday season.
The post vetted eight local organizations to which it will distribute between 70 to 250 toys each for needy youngsters this holiday season, said Judy Lanci, coordinator of the post’s annual Children’s Christmas Toy Drive.
The distribution will take place from Wednesday, December 13 through Friday, December 15, and will benefit children in family homeless shelters, after-school programs, churches and non-profit programs – all in the Bronx, she said.
Lanci, Anthony Ferrara, Colleen McCarthy and Danielle Mazzariello-Fava run the annual drive.
It is held in memory of Joseph Mazzariello, a Vietnam veteran who began the drive with Ferrara more than 30 years ago.
“Joe’s saying that ‘No child should go without a toy at Christmas’ is my belief too,” said Lanci. “Everyone goes through hard times; when I walked into the shelters, I saw families who were like me.”
Lanci said she gets a great deal of joy knowing she made a difference in the life of children in need during the holidays.
Ferrara said he is motivated by imagining how a child must feel to gather round a tree on Christmas morning and to find two or three packages that they weren’t expecting.
“Just picturing the kids smiling is what makes me feel that we made a difference,” said Ferrara.
The organizations receiving the toys are thoroughly researched, said Lanci.
“We have done all of our homework on these organizations,” she said, explaining that the post looks at the recipient groups’ mission statements and 501c3 non-profit statuses, in addition to reviewing their online presence and a face-to-face visit.
When the drive first started three decades ago, collection boxes were placed in local businesses, especially in banks, along East Tremont Avenue, and money was collected in tin cans that were placed in local shops, said Ferrara.
Today, the drive functions by soliciting donations via the mail from legionaries immediately following the Veterans Day, said Lanci.
The donations are used to purchase toys that are then gathered together with individual toys from a drop-off point where the public can contribute, which this year is located at Throggs Neck Memorial American Legion Post #1456.
Toys, which typically cost between $5 and $10, are for children 12 and under, said both Lanci and Ferrara.
Exceptions are sometimes made for veterans’ families or Throggs Neck community families who may have lost both breadwinners, said Ferrara and Lanci.
Special attention is paid to the children of veteran families, as the American Legion is a veterans’ organization, said Lanci.
The drive solicits funding from the general public year round via personal checks that can be sent to Theodore Korony Post #253, P.O. Box 833, Bronx, New York 10465.
Checks can be made payable to the ‘Theodore Korony Children’s Christmas Toy Drive.’