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Chamber Collects Toys With Marines

Few anticipate the magic of the holiday season more than children; however, that wonderment can sadly be tainted when a family in hardship is unable to provide a Christmas toy for their excited youngster.

Enter the U.S. Marine Corps, the Massapequa Chamber of Commerce and their joint venture to provide a toy to each and every child in need this holiday season. Participating in the Marines’ famed Toys for Tots program, Chamber president Patricia Orzano said that helping children has been a personal passion of hers for many years.

“I had brought the Chamber into it about six years ago...before that, I had been working with Toys for Tots for 7-11 of Long Island for 16 years,” she said. “Every year the Chamber has a kick-off luncheon and we have about 10-15 members who agree to collect toys. They set up Toys for Tots boxes in their businesses, and eventually we go around and collect the toys they’ve gathered and bring them to the pick-up location.”

U.S. Marine Staff Sergeant Brian Gomez was in charge of picking up the toys collected by the Massapequa Chamber and 7-11; he undertook this important mission on the Friday morning before Christmas at the 7-11 location owned by Orzano at 5570 Merrick Rd.

“The Marine Corps Toys for Tots program has been going since 1947,” Gomez said. “It was originally started for needy kids of soldiers who were deployed during World War II, and it was so successful that the Marine Corps decided to adopt it and make it a nationwide program, and we’ve been doing it ever since.”

Each year, the Chamber members collect approximately 300 toys for the Marines to give to kids in need. In addition, through participating 7-11 stores, Orzano said that an additional several thousand or so toys are raised, ensuring that many young ones out there will be having a bright holiday season.

“It’s a nice feeling...there are children out there all over the place that may not have received a nice toy during the holiday season, and now they will,” she said. “You don’t realize until you go to a homeless shelter or a soup kitchen how many people there are that are in need. And it’s not just the economy in 2013...it’s always been that way. I’ve seen it, and it’s a wonderful feeling to be able to help in any way.”

Nassau County Legislator Michael Venditto stopped by the 7-11 on the morning of the toy pick-up to contribute a few choice items of his own to the collection.

“Among the hustle and bustle of the season, I just think that it’s so important to reflect on what the season really means,” he said. “That means showing love, respect and generosity for other people, particularly those people who are in need. So to be able to give a toy or two and help some people in the community really puts a nice bow on the gift that we can present to those in need this time of the year.”

New York State Assemblyman Joseph Saladino also was on-hand to lend his support for the good work that the Marines do each and every day of the year.

“Toys for Tots is a wonderful program...it allows people to feel really good at holiday time by giving to others and it helps bring joy to needy families,” he said. “So it makes all of us feel good to give, and it makes those in need feel good to receive, and it brings a special meaning to the holiday season.”

Sergeant Gomez said that the Marines’ efforts are only made possible by the help of each and every citizen who cares enough about their fellow man, woman and child to pitch in and help make a stranger’s holiday season a bright one.

“We always get great support...Nassau County always donates a lot of toys to us,” he said. “It helps so much, because the demand is out there and we need to help these children have the happiest holiday they can.”