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Just For The Kids: A Toy Drive

Giving dolls, toys and trucks to the annual Toy Drive of the Inter-religious & Human Needs Council (IHNC) of Oyster Bay was very successful again this year, thanks to Carol and Randy Daub of Oyster Bay. It is an extension of the Holiday Sharing Program.

Carol Daub said, “It’s the highlight of my year. Randy and I sit down at the dining table the day after Thanksgiving to work on the Toy Drive. Especially this year, when there is such a short time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, you can’t wait.

“But I can’t tell you how rewarding this is. I can’t even explain that there are so may people in the community that care for the needy: they, and it, are so compassionate. People walk in off the street with a bag of toys saying, ‘We want to contribute.’ They come in from the parking lot saying, ‘We want to donate.’

 “This community never fails to meet the need. We’ve been doing this for about 15 to 18 years: Randy said it has been 18 years. Before that, the Toy Drive, was run by Joe Ferraro, Eve Bernstein, and Rosemary Colvin. We have never been disappointed in the outcome. It is just the highlight of my year. It brings people together.”

On Wednesday, Dec. 19, the church pews at the First Presbyterian Church were filled with toys instead of parishioners. Just as at a wedding, the two sides were designated, for the girls, and for the boys.

Carol said one school student seeing all the toys said, “Wow!” She explained to him that while “It is a wow in the aggregate. It does seem like a lot, but it is for about 200 kids.”

The Toy Drive helps over 113 families, which breaks down to over 200 kids under the age of 14 that receive toys in this community. They are families that have been identified through the local churches, schools and agencies.

Two Long Days

The Daubs opened the doors to the Toy Drive at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 18, and stayed there until about 6 p.m. and Thursday they were accepting toys from 9 to noon. “Then we close down and pack up all the toys for delivery. For the next three hours we bag the toys and then the families start to come in and pick them up.”

The families and children served live in the OB-EN School District area, although if a child who lives in Bayville receives services in Oyster Bay that credits them too. “Bayville, in some circles is considered part of our community, but not Locust Valley,” she explained.

On Wednesday they got a surprise donation that they used for gift wrapping paper. “I went out to K-Mart in Huntington Thursday morning, and bought it so everyone will get paper to wrap the toys,” said Carol. That is one of the goals of the program, that the parents receive the toys and decide which child gets which toy and wraps them up for Santa Claus for the appropriate youngster.

At first Carol was hoping a volunteer would show up to shop for the gift wrapping, but she ended doing it herself. Thinking of next year, she said, “We can always use adult volunteers. We have tons of kids, they come from the schools.”

The schools do a lot of the collecting and then bring the items to the parish hall. “Some schools just donate toys but some supply us with kids,” she added.

The Oyster Bay High School Student Council raises funds to shop for the toy drive and on Wednesday at about 2 p.m. Carol was on the phone talking to them. They were already on a bus ready to go shopping and she told them what they needed to get. They raised a lot of money, she said.

At that same time, seniors from Harmony Heights were just leaving. They were helping to sort the toys as well as to deliver toys they collected. East Norwich’s Lorraine DeBellis, who works at Harmony Heights, was there with the girls. Friends Academy kids also delivered toys and helped sort them. East Woods School dropped off a large number of toys although they couldn’t stay and help sort. Portledge dropped off a large collection of toys on Thursday. BOCES kids came to do sorting on Thursday morning.

Groups Donate

Miss Terri herself, Terry Aquilino, brought toys from the Life Enrichment Center of Oyster Bay. “It’s always her who brings them in,” said Carol.

Sagamore Hill National Historic Site donated toys on Wednesday morning. There were several private parties that took place over that last weekend where people collected toys and brought them down.

“People called and said, ‘We had a holiday party and asked people to bring toys, and can we bring them.’ It was wonderful.

“The Italian-American Club donated toys, and there are a lot of really generous people in the community who donated money, several thousands. A lot of private residents and clubs donate funds, all of which offsets the cost of the needs of the program. The money never goes to waste. A lot of the checks keep pouring in, even after Christmas. It’s a wonderful thing,” she said.

The work the Daubs do includes sending letters about the Toy Drive and later thank you letters acknowledging the gifts.

Families Helped

A lot of the families the IHNC helped at Thanksgiving are the same people that were getting the toys. Besides the toys, they received a second round of gift certificates to Shop & Stop for food and also each child got a CVS gift card so they could buy gifts for their families. It allows the child to participate in the act of giving.

Carol said for many years Shirlee Gerstein who was with the Youth & Family Counseling Agency of Oyster Bay-East Norwich (YFCA) ran the holiday sharing programs working on her kitchen table, on her own time. She was a volunteer with the sharing program. “She is still very much with me in spirit. She calls and asks if I am having trouble. She cares so much about the people in this community. She called the other day to see how things were going.”

Although the YFCA is not involved in the Holiday Sharing Program they do their adopt a family program.

The Holiday Sharing Program grunt work involves assembling the names of those they will serve, fundraising for the program, getting volunteers for the set ups; and contacting the schools each year. “I have a list of schools and I contact the schools each year. I have fundraising letter to do and I talk to the newspapers.”

Carol ended with a sigh, and  a good natured laugh: “I’m looking forward to finding my dining room table this weekend.”