Friday, 07 January 2011 00:00
‘Twas the week before Christmas
and all through the town,
the elves were scurrying to make the countdown.
The gifts were arriving, by truck and by train,
to fill every stocking with no room to remain.
The children awaited his visit with glee,
then Santa Claus appeared by
the sparkling Christmas tree.
He passed out gifts to the kids so excited...
See what happens when we all stand united.
It was a special day for the Youth & Family Counseling Agency of Oyster Bay-East Norwich and the Hispanic Cultural Center (CCH) as the delivery trucks pulled up to Christ Church parish hall in Oyster Bay, just in time to get the gifts under the tree before the start of their annual Christmas celebration. Volunteers worked rapidly to prepare these presents to be distributed to the kids of the YFCA and CCH via Santa.
The efforts of many brought the spirit of the holiday season in full display as Alex Gallego, branch manager of Stifel Nicolaus in Oyster Bay, brought together the team of Oyster Bay-East Norwich Chamber of Commerce members: Shari Dembowski, administrative assistant, Les Schachter, marketing chair; and President Michele Browner; the Reverend Peter Casparian of Christ Church; Lynn Cryer, director of Youth and Family Counseling’s Parent Child Home Program director; and James Bruns of Gifts In Kind International. Over $4000 in toys were delivered to the children that day. “The necessary forms were completed to ensure certain qualifications, deadlines were met, and holding our breath at the last minute, the trucks rolled up, making it a Merrier Christmas in Oyster Bay!” said Alex Gallego.
It was, in a way, a true Christmas miracle in itself. As a result of attending a fundraiser called Building Homes for Heroes in NYC, Mr. Gallego and Oyster Bay Town Councilwoman Rebecca Alesia were trying to get brand new mattresses for veterans experiencing difficulties during these hard economic times. That was why Alex was calling everyone he thought could be of help on the project and that made him think of Jim Bruns.
Alex said, “I knew Jim Bruns was working as a fundraiser and after calling him for help, found out he was with Gifts in Kind International, located in Washington D.C. - and I found out that he could actually get just about anything.” Mr. Bruns is a client of Mr. Gallego, is the past president of the Theodore Roosevelt Association and currently lives in Virginia.
Mr. Gallego said, “While talking to Jim, he said he had a pallet of Mattel and Fisher Price toys available but I had to accept them immediately. He said ‘Do you know anyone who needs toys?’ The first person I thought of to ask was Peter Casparian so I called him.”
Father Casparian was all for the project and that was all Alex needed to know. He got on the phone and started making the arrangements to make the whole thing happen.
“At first, I didn’t know where I was going to put the toys. It all just worked out,” said Mr. Gallego.
Father Casparian said the real miracle happened in how the toys were delivered. He said, “Those toys are not donated to churches but to other non-profits. We happened to be in the right place and time to receive the gifts from Jim Bruns and to facilitate the distribution. The miracle was that the pallet came the very afternoon of the YFCA Parent Child Home Program; and the Hispanic Cultural Society was holding their party that same night also. It was a process that was going on since Thanksgiving. When the gifts arrived when they did, that was the real Christmas Miracle.”
There is more to the story. As they worked with the toys, they realized they were even so fortunate as to have gifts left over, so they were donated to the Toys for Tots collection being held at the Oyster Bay Post Office, under the direction of Dioenis Perez, postmaster; and to the children of migrant farm workers on Long Island.
As for the mattresses, that is an ongoing project that Mr. Gallego and Ms. Alesia will continue to work on and to organize, he said.
“Oyster Bay is a special place where so many organizations and individuals come together to make a difference. It is a community whose philosophy, both professionally and personally, puts people first: and it is in giving that we receive,” said Mr. Gallego.
Mr. Bruns has found a worthy organization to work for. Gifts In Kind International charities receive a wide range of product donations that allow them to pass on these items to qualified non-profit groups. The types of products provided to Gifts In Kind charities include:
• Toys and craft items for children;
• Educational materials to teach and inspire;
• Personal care products and clothing for those facing desperate circumstances;
• Building materials and domestic goods to revitalize homes and neighborhoods;
• Cutting-edge software and vital office products;
• Household items to support transitional housing programs and victims of natural disaster.
For more information on Gifts In Kind International, visit www.giftsinkind.org .