Wow! The Queens Chronicle’s 18th Annual Holiday Toy Drive sure was a success. Literally hundreds of children — infants, teenagers and everyone in between — got toys, clothes and other gifts for Christmas, thanks to our readers.
Our reception area became an obstacle course as the donations piled up. The conference room looked like a miniature Toys “R” Us warehouse. Santa’s little helpers at the front desk — office manager Lisa LiCausi, our main toy drive coordinator, administrator Stela Barbu and new accounting staffer Giselle Faura — were kept more than busy receiving contributions, packing them up and ensuring they would go to the right recipients. Of course Publisher Mark Weidler got involved directly, as always, loading the gifts into his SUV and, with LiCausi, personally delivering them to many of the recipients.
We had thought donations might fall off a little this year, thanks to Hurricane Sandy and the still-weak economy, but the truth was just the opposite. We were blown away by the number of gifts we received from our readers — so many that we spread your largesse to even more youngsters than initially planned.
“With many of our readers severely impacted by Superstorm Sandy, I expected donations to our toy drive to be lower this year — but once again, I am overwhelmed by the response,” Weidler said. “We received more donations this year than in any past year. Thank you to everyone who contributed, and I hope you all know you made a difference in a child’s life this holiday season.”
Gifts went directly to homeless children at the Metro Family Residence in Elmhurst, the Kings Inn in East Elmhurst and two locations of Dove House, a shelter for battered women and their children. The rest were given to the Glendale-Maspeth United Methodist Church, Glendale Volunteer Ambulance Corps and United Methodist Church of Richmond Hill for distribution to other needy families, especially those battered by Hurricane Sandy in South Queens and Rockaway.
Some donors also brought in nonperishable food items, perhaps still thinking of the Hurricane Sandy relief drive we started two days after the storm. No problem — those all went to the food pantry at Glendale-Maspeth United Methodist under the guidance of Marcie Galatioto, a member of the church’s Missions Committee and retiree from the City Department of Homeless Services, who’s been a key player in our toy drives practically since the beginning.
Each week we’ve been thanking our most recent donors in these pages, except for last week, when we made our final pitch for contributions and had two nice photos to run with it. So the following are all the people who gave between deadline for the Dec. 13 Queens Chronicle and the night of Dec. 20, when we finished taking in gifts so there would be time to get them to the children by Christmas. Some donors chose to remain anonymous, not all of the others left their full names and locations and some of the writing got a little messy, but here are the names we know:
Judy Fell of Rego Park, Valia Martinez of Rego Park, Robert Schwartz, the DiCristo family, the Puzino family of Rego Park, Judy Barkoski of Howard Beach, Ina Brennan of Astoria, Carmella Cerar of Howard Beach, Brian Cullen of Maspeth, Susan Mrsich of Richmond Hill, Nora Tencza of Richmond Hill, Kathy Scardapane of Forest Hills, Jull Shust of Maspeth, Virginia Wisman of Woodhaven, Joanne Steward of Woodhaven, Joseph and Patricia Paton (nÈe Lehmann) of Holbrook, LI (formerly of Ridgewood and Floral Park, respectively), Sheldon Luberiff of Oakland Gardens, Judy Rudnick of Howard Beach, Donna Bernsen of Maspeth, Mike Singh of South Ozone Park, Robert and Caryn Perlman of Forest Hills, Helen Chin of Elmhurst, Betty Hary Metaxa of Woodhaven, Madeline Del Guidice of Middle Village, Margaret Justynowicz of Middle Village, Fernando Sandoval of Flushing, Nancy of Rego Park, Dolores Damna of Elmhurst, Dorothy Walter, Irene Cooke, Victor Sawchuk, the Angelo Gracie Republican Club of Ozone Park, the Bonelli family of Glendale, the Garcia, Murillo, Revelo, Rodriguez, Moralez and Marulanda families of Rego Park, and the management of 60 Sutton Place South in Manhattan. And of course we must thank our fine next-door neighbors at Barosa restaurant, who accepted gifts after business hours for us.
Wow. This was one special holiday season at the Chronicle. On behalf of all the children whose Christmas dreams came true, we thank you, our readers, for going far above and beyond the call of duty. Have yourselves a very Happy New Year — you earned it!