Local Sons of Italy lodge and Bronx Rotarians deliver 3,000 toys this holiday season to children

Some of the children who received gifts at St. Joseph School for the Deaf stand with Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj, Santa Claus, and their benefactors from the Sons of Italy Uguaglianza North East Bronx Lodge #83 and the Rotary Club of the Bronx.
Community News Group/Photo by Patrick Rocchio

A heartwarming toy drive combined the generous efforts of two charitable organizations once again this year to spread holiday cheer to children.

The Rotary Club of the Bronx and the Uguaglianza North East Bronx Sons of Italy Lodge #83, bought and distributed toys to children at five schools for special needs kids and a hospital’s pediatric ward before Christmas Day, Thursday, December 25.

Children at P.S. 811 in Hunts Point, the New York Institute of Special Education in Pelham Parkway, Lavelle School for the Blind in Williamsbridge, St. Joseph School for the Deaf in Throggs Neck, Bronx Organization for the Learning Disabled in Pelham Bay, and at Jacobi Medical Center were all benefactors of the generosity, which had the support of local elected officials.

“We put on fundraisers throughout the year,” said Sal Borgia, immediate past president of the Uguanlianza Lodge, explaining how the group raises money to buy toys and clothes. He added: “We try to give as many gifts as we can.”

In addition to the toys, funds were also collected by his organization to take 10 needy families to dinner, said Borgia.

From the Rotary Club, Lilyanna Pekic, one of the organizers of the toy drive and holiday cheer effort, said that the effort started about six years ago when the owner of a Waterbury-LaSalle floral shop began it.

Gradually, Pekic said both clubs took over the giveaway and expanded it, and this year about 3,000 toys and forty $50 gift cards for groceries would find a home with young people in need and their families.

Pekic said that the two clubs are responsible for the effort, but they are happy to have the support of local elected officials like Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj, who was on hand to meet with children and with Santa Claus at a gift-giveaway that benefited 120 children at St. Joseph on Friday, December 19.

When visiting with the children at Gjonaj said of the coordinators: “these are two originations that understand the meaning of generosity.”

Pekic stressed that it is especially important to help special needs children because they are often marginalized.

“Different organizations have plans and for all of the other children, but these children are sometimes forgotten,” said Pekic. “Because of this, we want to bring awareness.”

Debra Arles, executive director of St. Joseph School for the Deaf which services children with hearing impairments from infancy to 14-years-old, said that the gifts make the holiday more enjoyable for the children, some of whom do not receive many gifts at home.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at procc‌hio@c‌ngloc‌al.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.

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