A busy American Legion post was transformed for one day into Santa’s workshop for local kids in need.
The Joseph Mazzariello Theodore Korony American Legion Post #253 Toy Drive once again distributed toys this holiday season to eight local, non-profit charitable organizations.
The merry band of Santa’s helpers distributed the toys to representatives from organizations – ranging from shelters for women and children to churches to after-school programs – on Tuesday, December 18 from a donated space in Throggs Neck.
This year approximately 900 toys were distributed, according to organizers.
The legion sent out letters to its membership, auxiliary and Sons of the American Legion chapter asking for donations to purchase the gifts, and toys were also collected at locations including Throggs Neck Memorial American Legion Post #1456, Bronxonia Yacht Club and First Lutheran Church of Throggs Neck, said Anthony Ferrara, one of the volunteers.
“We follow Joe Mazzariello’s mission: no child should be without a toy at Christmas,” said lead drive coordinator Judy Lanci, referring to the founder and namesake of the drive, a U.S. Marine who ran it for decades.
Lanci added: “They are went to really needy children. Thank God most of the children in our own community are taken care of during the holidays. Our job is to help veterans’ families and take it a few steps beyond.”
Support for the drive also came from a donation from the National Guard, said Lanci, and from residents of Edgewater Park, added Ferrara.
Lanci said that after Mazzariello passed away, she took over the leadership of the toy drive, verifying the credentials of non-profit organizations that the toy drive was serving.
In the ten years that have passed, some organizations have been added to the roster of charities the drive benefits, she said.
The charities present the Korony post with lists of ages and genders of the boys and girls requiring gifts, and the drive coordinators do their best to fulfill the requests, said Ferrara, who also assists the Waterbury LaSalle Community Association’s annual Christmas Tree lighting by playing Santa Claus.
“Personally, I think every single toy we give to these organizations goes to a child who probably wouldn’t be getting anything on Christmas morning,” said Ferrara.
Cathy Praino, a local veterans advocate who is a volunteer with the drive, said she volunteers because she recognized the importance of children having toys at Christmas during the 18 years she spent working at an orphanage.
Recipients of the toy drive were Aquila, Inc., which operates a shelter on Morris Park Avenue in West Farms; Acaica Network; Antioquia Church – Christian and Missionary Alliance; The Bible Church of Christ; Concourse House; St John Chrysostom’s School; Einstein Hospital’s Children’s Evaluation and Rehabilitation Center and Claremont Neighborhood Center.
The post’s annual holiday toy drive accepts monetary donations all year round for its philanthropic efforts, said Lanci.
Checks for future drives should be payable to the ‘Theodore Korony Christmas Toy Drive’ and mailed to Throggs Neck Station, P.O. Box 833, Bronx, New York 10465.