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Holidays

The holidays are just about here again, and before panicking about buying gifts, consider a unique, first time event slated for Setauket called.

TBR News Media is hosting Retail Lives, a private shopping experience Tuesday, Nov. 13, at The Bates House, located at 1 Bates Road in Setauket, at which local retailers and service-based businesses will set up booths to offer attendees a chance to knock out some holiday shopping early, and all in one place. The event will feature discounts on certain products and services as well as prewrapped items ideal for gift giving.

“We are going to have a wonderful, select group of local retailers who have decided to join us,” said Evelyn Costello, TBR News Media event planner and organizer of the first incarnation of the event, which will also be live streamed on tbrnewsmedia.com. “It’s a real community feel event.”

Publisher Leah Dunaief shed light on the thinking behind putting together the experience.

“We very much want to support the retail businesses in our communities,” she said. “They are the backbones of our villages in the sense of places to go when we need support for the Little League, or the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, the musical groups. They are, physically, the center of our towns. It’s the stores that make the physical presence. We want to help them to stay in business against the mammoth Amazon and other businesses that are threatening their existence.”

The event is sponsored by The Bates House, Simple Party Designs, Empire Tent Rental & Event Planning and Elegant Eating. It will feature retailers and businesses Ecolin Jewelers, Hardts and Flowers, DazzleBar, Blue Salon & Spa, East Wind, North Fork Fire, The Ward Melville Heritage Organization, Chocolate Works, Three Village Historical Society, East End Shirt Co., Signs by All Seasons, Nicole Eliopoulos of State Farm and The Rinx.

For more information contact Costello by phone 516-909-5171 or by email at ec@tbrnewsmedia.com.

Words are the symphony that warms the skin and colors the silence.

Words can be like the sound of reinforcements coming over the horizon when we feel penned down by an adversary. They rescue us just as we use them to swaddle others in their warmth.

As we make the transition from Halloween to Thanksgiving, Black Friday and, eventually, the December holidays and the new year, we can take solace in the anticipation of words that provide warmth through the darker days of winter.

We might take a trip to Central Park, where the sound of sleigh bells from carriages around a corner alerts us to the appearance of an approaching horse, even as the animal might remind us of a city that predated internal combustion engines.

Just the words “sleigh ride” might inspire our minds to play a song we performed in high school.

Words can also convey the remarkable scents of the coming seasons, with the air carrying the mouthwatering Pavlovian cue from gingerbread houses or holiday cookies.

I recently attended a wedding where a few well-chosen words triggered an almost immediate and reflexive “awww” from an audience delighted to hear how much a younger brother was inspired by his older brother, the groom.

Reading about how important our coat donations are can inspire us to rummage through our closets to help a child or an adult become more comfortable in the frigid air.

Well-chosen words can provide the kind of environment that empowers people to see and appreciate everything from the inspirational image of a person overcoming physical limitations to the intricate beauty of a well-woven spiderweb shimmering in the low light of winter.

Sometimes, as when a friend or family member is going through a significant medical procedure or crisis, words or prayer or encouragement are all we have to offer, giving us something to do or say as we hope the words provide even a scintilla of comfort.

Words can feel insufficient to express how we feel or what we hope happens when someone who has been in the foreground of our lives for years seems suddenly vulnerable.

Simple tools which we all take for granted, words can take us to a peaceful beach with the sound of water lapping on the coarse sand under our feet, transporting our minds and bodies away from the cacophony of busy lives.

In big moments, athletes often suggest that they are at a loss for words. In reality, their words and emotions are undergoing so much competition that their brain experiences a word bottleneck, with a flow of ideas and words awaiting the chance to dive from the tip of their tongues to the eager ears of their friends, family and fans.

The coming holiday season is filled with diametrically opposed experiences, as the joy of opening presents and reconnecting with friends and family for the first time in months or even a year is counterbalanced by the stress and strain of those people who feel overwhelmed or alone.

People who work at suicide hotlines or as 911 operators can and do use critical words to save people’s lives, bringing their minds back from the brink, restoring hope and offering a comforting verbal lifeline.

We take words for granted because we see and hear them so often, but the right word at the right time can transcend the routine.

Finding words that resonate is akin to strolling into a restaurant and discovering a combination of familiar and exotic flavors, all mixed together with a palate-pleasing texture that energizes us.

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When we have visitors, we like to show off our neighborhoods. We take our guests to the beaches to admire the beautiful shoreline and we bring them to our villages to enjoy restaurants and shops. But some stores have been forced to close largely because so much shopping now takes place on the internet.

The owners and managers of stores that remain have learned that they must do more than in the past to attract customers. That is true of malls, department stores and especially smaller retail shops. To compete with the convenient internet, they have to offer an appealing experience for the consumer to visit them.

We are proud of our downtowns and want to publicize their efforts to attract business, especially for their best season before the holidays. To provide a local shopping event and a fun experience, we have arranged a private holiday treat at the Bates House opposite the Emma Clark Library in Setauket. Hometown stores and services from Huntington, Cold Spring Harbor, Northport, Smithtown, St. James, Stony Brook, Setauket-East Setauket, Port Jefferson, Port Jefferson Station, Mount Sinai, Miller Place, Rocky Point, Sound Beach, Shoreham, Wading River, Centereach, Selden and Lake Grove will feature their offerings at this charming venue for our local residents. Those who come out to enjoy this showcase will find a discount of 20 percent for some products and services.

Shoppers will be exposed to neighbors and friends as they sample community gatherings. Business owners will look to demonstrate what’s new for the holidays, from products or services to gift certificates and one-time discounts.

To make the occasion more delightful, there will be dessert bites from Elegant Eating and prosecco wine provided by TBR News Media/Times Beacon Record as a treat for shoppers, who will attend free.

Those businesses who are participating will enjoy a discounted rate at the gala in addition to their advertising in our holiday book, “Time for Giving.” They will also have advertising on our internet website and social media, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Furthermore, we will have spot interviews with each exhibitor and streaming live video throughout the event on Facebook on Tuesday, Nov. 13, from 5:30-8:30 pm. For further information, please turn to the large ad in our Arts & Lifestyles section in the center of the newspapers. also see our website and social media.

We will be proud to feature our private holiday shopping experience and hope you will, too. Please join us.

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Santa visits Stony Brook via helicopter in the 1950s.

Santa Claus will make his annual journey from the North Pole to drop off gifts to kids around the world this weekend, but before he does that, take a look back at a visit he paid to Stony Brook in the 1950s.

Ditching his sleigh for a helicopter, Santa landed on the Stony Brook Village Green and proceeded to the Stony Brook Fire Department to greet children.

Uniqua holds her two new teddy bears tightly. She received the gifts from members of Mount Sinai's Students Against Destructive Decisions club. Photo by Kevin Redding

Just one night at Mount Sinai High School helped to make the season bright for local families in need.

For Christmas, all 6-year-old Uniqua really wanted was an Elf on the Shelf toy, a gift her mom struggled to afford. But Moniqua McGee, who lives with her daughter at Concern for Independent Living in Medford, knew she had nothing to worry about. She had Mount Sinai high schoolers to rely on.

A family from Concern for Independent Living receive gifts from Mount Sinai children through Hauppuage-based nonprofit Christmas Magic. Photo by Kevin Redding

On Dec. 6, during the Students Against Destructive Decisions club’s Christmas Magic dinner in the high school’s cafeteria, a beaming Uniqua not only got her wish, but two new teddy bears and holiday-themed face paint, too. She even met Santa Claus and Rudolph.

“I’m grateful they’re doing this for the families and putting smiles on the kid’s faces,” said Moniqua McGee, who has been coming to the event the past five years. “It works every time.”

The McGees were just one of dozens of families from the Medford nonprofit enjoying the holiday spirit in the room. An 18-year partnership between the Hauppauge-based organization Christmas Magic and the SADD club, the Christmas soiree served as the ultimate payoff of a shopping spree by the students Dec. 1. Under the supervision of SADD club advisors John Wilson and John McHugh, they spent that day rushing around Smith Haven Mall and Walmart to buy gifts for more than 60 boys and girls from Concern for Independent Living, which provides housing and employment help for struggling families, based on wish lists they wrote to Santa. The school district also raised $8,000 for Christmas Magic.

Members of Mount Sinai’s Students Against Destructive Decisions club watch children open up presents. Photo by Kevin Redding

“I’m happy and proud to be part of a program and district that not only encourages, but fosters this type of activity,” McHugh said. “The students involved display the best we have to offer … we have grown our program every year and that makes me feel great.”

With all the gifts wrapped and labeled, every kid left the dinner with at least three presents given to them by Santa, played by rosy red cheeked wrestling icon Mick Foley, who also posed for pictures. Christmas tunes blared through the cafeteria’s speakers as families ate chicken, pasta and desserts, and SADD club members — some dressed up in costume — went around the room with little gift bags of extra toys for attendees. SADD club members also played games and watched “Elf” with the kids.

“It’s so nice to be able to see all the kids here and see them get the gifts we got for them,” said Allie Garrant, an 11th grader and SADD club member, who picked up a lacrosse stick and Rubik’s Cube for a 13-year-old boy. “Just seeing their faces — it’s a whole different thing. It’s like, ‘Wow, these are real people I’m helping’ and you get to see firsthand the difference you’re making.”

Renato Lugo, whose four children were ecstatic over their gifts, expressed his gratitude to those involved in the event.

Students dressed up to entertain children during a Christmas Magic dinner at Mount Sinai High School. Photo by Kevin Redding

“It’s a beautiful thing to have organizations like these that help out and take care of people in need,” said Lugo, who has been aided by Concern for Independent Living for six years. “The students bring joy and cheer and they make my kids very happy.”

His 12-year-old daughter, Elena, was ecstatic receiving a long-sleeve Unicorn pajama shirt from Santa.

“I think it’s really amazing I got the present I wanted,” Elena said. “And the food is amazing and everyone’s so happy. I love SADD. They’re really like another Santa.”

Kim Dellamura, who’s been at the nonprofit agency for six months, said the event allowed her 4-year-old daughter MacKenzie to have a Christmas.

“It feels good because I don’t know how much I would’ve been able to give her this year,” Dellamura said. “So this really helps out a lot. She loves it.”

For Lawrence Aurigemma, the event is a perfect reflection of what this time of year means.

“This season is all about peace and generosity,” said Aurigemma, a military veteran whose 14-year-old son received Pokemon cards. “These students are just fantastic. They go out of their way to help out the less fortunate people here. It’s a wonderful thing. They knew exactly what to get my son … he’s so happy.”

Smithtown resident and former WWE wrestler Mick Foley dishes out gifts to children. Photo by Kevin Redding

Also at the event was Christmas Magic founder Charlie Russo and representatives of Concern for Independent Living, including case managers Ella Cantave and Julio Villarman, who were excited to see their clients enjoying the holidays.

“It’s a very special day for them,” Cantave said. “It took a lot of effort to make it happen and to make it nice for them.”

As everybody in the room sang “Jingle Bells,” Santa arrived and joined in. Each kid’s name was called out to sit down with the big man in the red suit.

Foley, who has been a volunteer with Christmas Magic since 2000 and officially assumed the role of Santa for the organization in 2014, said he looks forward to the event all year round.

“It’s a great organization — they spread joy and happiness to so many of the less fortunate in the community, and it’s an honor to wear the red suit and represent Christmas Magic,” Foley said before turning his attention to the SADD club. “I make it a point to thank all of them because I think it’s wonderful that they get involved in volunteer work at a young age. They do a great job and it’s really easy for me to show up and get a lot of the credit from children, but the truth is, without them, absolutely none of this is possible.”

Centereach Fire Department teamed up with Operation Christmas Child to collect shoeboxes filled with gifts to be donated to needy children. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr

It wasn’t quite Santa’s sleigh, but it was large, red and carried presents, so an ambulance was good enough for the Selden Fire Department, which took over Santa’s duties last week and stuffed 100 shoeboxes with gifts for poor young children all over the world.

Volunteers help fill a Selden Fire Department
ambulance with shoeboxes for Operation Christmas
Child. Photo by Kyle Barr

“Most of these boxes are going to go to kids who never even get a gift,” Selden Fire Department Treasurer Vincent Ammirati said. “This is something that will put a smile on a face, and this is the fire department — everything we do here is for other people. All we do is try put a smile on people’s faces.”

The shoeboxes were collected as part of Operation Christmas Child, a function of the evangelical Christian humanitarian aid organization Samaritan’s Purse. The organization takes the shoeboxes from drop-off points in local churches before sending them to distribution centers that will ship them to poor communities in Africa, South America, Asia and others. The shoeboxes are labeled by age and gender, and usually contain toys like inflatable soccer balls or stuffed animals, but mostly they contain hygiene products like soap and toothbrushes along with school supplies like books and pencils.

All seven companies within the Selden Fire Department helped contribute to the stack, with some companies acting as a group and other members of the fire department contributing indipendently.

Children in Uganda receive shoeboxes of gifts from
Operation Christmas Child last year. Photo from
Danielle McCarthy

Volunteer firefighter and Operation Christmas Child Long Island Coordinator Danielle McCarthy headed the fire department’s collection drive. She said she got the idea of filling an ambulance full of shoeboxes from watching the Los Angeles Police Department and how a funeral home had pulled in with a hearse full of shoe boxes.

McCarthy has been involved with Operation Christmas Child for more than a decade, first packing boxes before becoming a local packing leader, and then area coordinator. In 2012 McCarthy travelled to Uganda to help hand out shoeboxes.

“As we put shoe boxes into their hands and they opened up those boxes I saw their delight,” she said. “To look at them having physical needs met, to be able to see the joy that came to them from these simple things like school supplies and toys and that sort of thing, that impacted me. But what really impacted me even more, and what keeps me packing shoeboxes, were all the kids standing outside the place who didn’t get shoeboxes because there wasn’t enough to give to everybody.”

Shoeboxes for Operation Christmas
Child were collected with gifts to be
donated to needy children.
Photo by Kyle Barr

Every box also comes with a picture book called “The Greatest Gift,” put inside after each is packed. The book depicts a number of biblical stories told in that country’s native language. There was a $9 fee for every package, which pays for both the book and shipping costs. The fire department pulled together $900 to go toward this cost.

“Every one of these shoeboxes to us is not just a gift that we’re giving to a child, but around Christmas time Jesus is a gift we try to give, too,” said Victor Rossomano, an Operation Christmas Child Suffolk County-area coordinator. “It’s in their language and their culture. We try to keep it within their culture; we try not to send America to them, we want them to be who they are.”

Ammirati helped McCarthy drive the shoeboxes to the drop-off point at the Grace Gospel Church in Patchogue. He said he plans on using his officer status with the Suffolk County Volunteer Fireman’s Association to try and spread the idea out to all the different fire departments in the county.

“It’s a great way to show our community presence with the fire department and also for Operation Christmas Child,” McCarthy said. “It’s taken a few years to get this rolling, but when we challenged the fire department to fill the ambulance, as you can see, the guys stepped up.”

The 100 boxes kicked off national collection week, which ran from Nov. 13 to 20. In 2009, Suffolk County gathered 7,100 boxes, but the number has grown. The group is hoping to have 20,000 boxes packed this year

Shoreham-Wading River High School. File photo by Kevin Redding

A new, broader homework policy drafted by the Shoreham-Wading River board of education opened up a dialogue last month between parents and administrators over the best approach to after school assignments throughout the district.

Varying consequences for students who don’t do their homework and an overabundance of assignments over school holidays were main topics of discussion during Shoreham’s Oct. 24 board meeting, in which community members weighed in on a planned revision to the district’s current policy.

In response to a curriculum survey sent out by the district over the summer, parents requested that its guidelines for homework be expanded. While the original policy is merely two sentences on the educational validity of homework, the new two-page proposal aims to better accommodate for individual students and incorporates recognized best practices in the development of assignments.

New homework guidelines could include stricter
penalties, less work on vacations. Stock photo

“The process has certainly put a lens on homework,” Superintendent Gerard Poole said. “Feedback from parents in the survey was a little mixed — the underlying theme was that homework is important but there should be consistencies across grade levels and considerations for home life. We tried to craft something that empowered the buildings to make practices come to life that make sense for students and families.” 

The newly drafted guidelines, titled Policy 8440, encourage teachers to consider students’ time constraints when assigning homework, which should be “appropriate to students’ age” and shouldn’t “take away too much time away from other home activities.”

“Homework should foster positive attitudes toward school and self, and communicate to students the idea that learning takes work at home as well as in school,” the draft policy states.

While it addresses that students should be accountable for all assignments, there are no strict consequences in place for when homework isn’t done, which prompted some parents to voice their concerns.

“I think it’s very important that we establish responsibility and have consequences that teachers themselves are able to have the flexibility to put on children,” said Jeannine Smith, a Shoreham parent with children in Wading River School and Miller Avenue School.

As an educator in an outside district, Smith supported the concept of taking recess away from students in the elementary and middle school who consistently don’t hand homework in.

“I think it’s very important that we establish responsibility and have consequences that teachers themselves are able to have the flexibility to put on children.”

— Jeannine Smith

“It’s the teacher’s job to make sure children are prepared in the future and if homework’s not important in the classroom, children get the message that there is no consequence,” she said.

Shoreham resident Erin Saunders-Morano agreed, saying she believes homework is ultimately the student’s responsibility and shouldn’t be seen as something that falls on the parents.

“As we get older, if you don’t do your job, there are consequences,” Morano said. “I think we should be raising the bar for our students, not lowering it. If students want recess, they should make sure they do their homework.”

But Alisa McMorris, a member of the district’s PTA council, protested the idea, saying students who are working hard all day deserve a break. She also pointed out that difficult and time-consuming projects should not be assigned over vacations.

“I can’t tell you how many times my kids have had projects due the day we get back from Christmas break and it makes me crazy,” McMorris said. “Our Christmas breaks now are doing these projects. Vacation is vacation.”

Michelle Gallucci, a Wading River resident and an English teacher at Smithtown High School East, commended the board for drafting a policy that gives teachers academic freedom based on the students they have in the classroom. She equated the importance of homework to sports practice.

“You can’t take a math class at 9 a.m. on a Monday and not do it again until 9 a.m. the next day,” she said. “You have to practice those skills and get better because your brain is a muscle. Just as students practice for hours after school to get ready for games, students also need intellectual practice.”

By Barbara Beltrami

The winter holidays are a time of rewards. Toys for good little children. Electronic devices for good big children. Baubles and bangles and bicycles. Sweaters and scarves and sleds. (I don’t know…these days does Santa still leave coal for bad children?)

And of course, sweet indulgences for having endured the holiday hassle, the spartan salads and remarkable restraint of the past year’s daily fare, the life of lattes instead of lunch and denial instead of dessert.

From January to November with a few hops off the wagon in between, we all feel guilty about satisfying our sweet teeth (tooths?) But come December, it’s Wahoo! Bring on those cookies and candy canes and chocolate Santas. And hey! What’s for dessert?

Here are three of my favorite desserts for the holidays. They’re all festive enough for a holiday table and easy enough for a special family treat.

Apple Tartapple-tart

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup solid vegetable shortening

2 teaspoons sugar

4 tablespoons ice water

3-4 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into thin crescent-shaped slices

1/4 – 1/3 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

1/4 cup confectioners sugar (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 425 F. In an electric food processor, blend the flour, salt, vegetable shortening and sugar; pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add ice water and process again until mixture forms ball.

Remove, place between two sheets of waxed paper and roll out into large circle that will fit bottom and sides of a well-greased 8- or 9-inch spring form tart pan. Gently lift top paper away and invert crust over pan. Peel away bottom sheet. Spread and pat dough against bottom and sides of pan. With rolling pin, remove any irregular pieces from top edge of pan. (Don’t worry if you have to patch crust as the apple slices will cover it.)

Arrange apple slices in attractive circles to fill crust. Sprinkle with granulated sugar; dot with butter. Bake 30 to 40 minutes, until crust is golden and apples are tender. Set aside on rack to cool: Gently remove tart from pan by pushing bottom of pan up. It is best to avoid trying to remove tart from bottom, but go ahead if you are brave. Before serving, sift confectioners sugar over top, if desired.

Cheesecake with Raspberry Topping

INGREDIENTS:

For the crust:

2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup melted butter

For the filling: 

Two 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened at room temperature

5 large eggs, at room temperature, separated

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 cup granulated sugar

1 pint sour cream

For the topping:

1 pint fresh raspberries, gently rinsed and thoroughly dried

1/2 cup currant jelly, melted

Fresh mint sprigs for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium bowl, thoroughly mix graham cracker crumbs with sugar, then with melted butter. Line sides and bottom of 9-inch spring form pan (with flat bottom insert in place) with crumb mixture.  Refrigerate for at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 350 F.  In large electric mixer bowl, with mixer at medium speed or “cream,” beat cream cheese, egg yolks, vanilla, lemon juice and sugar until smooth. Add sour cream and continue beating until well blended.

In clean mixer bowl, beat egg whites until stiff.  Fold into cheese mixture. Turn cheese mixture into crumb-lined pan.  Bake 1 hour, then turn off oven and let sit in oven 1 hour longer. (When cake comes out of oven and cools, it may sink.  Do not be alarmed! The berries will cover that.)

When cooled to room temperature, run knife blade around edge of pan to loosen crust. Be sure to keep blade pressed hard against inner rim. Unclasp side of pan and lift gently from bottom. Refrigerate until ready to serve or glaze.

Spread berries evenly around top of cake. With pastry brush, coat berries with melted jelly; let set. Refrigerate. When ready to serve, garnish with mint sprigs.

Profiteroles with Pistachio-Rum Ice Cream and Chocolate  Sauce

YIELD: Serves 8

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup water

1 stick butter

1 cup flour

4 eggs

1 pint pistachio ice cream, softened but not melted

1 cup chopped red and green candied fruit or fruit peel

3 tablespoons rum

8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate pieces

8 ounces heavy cream

DIRECTIONS:

For the profiteroles: Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease a baking sheet. In medium saucepan, heat water and butter to rolling boil. Over low heat, vigorously stir in flour until mixture forms a ball. Remove from heat and vigorously beat in eggs, one at a time until mixture is smooth. Drop the dough into 8 equidistant mounds onto baking sheet. With finger tips, pat mounds into symmetrical domes.  Bake 35 to 40 minutes, until puffed and golden brown.  Allow to cool. With a sharp knife, slice about 1 inch off  tops; reserve. Carefully and gently scoop out soft dough from center; discard.  Five or 10 minutes before serving, let ice cream mixture soften a little;  fill the puffs with it and top with reserved sliced-off tops.  Stack into a pyramid and drizzle with chocolate sauce.

For the filling: Fold one cup of the candied fruit and the rum into the ice cream.  Return to freezer.

For the sauce: In a small saucepan, heat cream and chocolate pieces together.  Mix with wire whisk over medium-low heat until it reaches the consistency of chocolate pudding. Remove from heat. Let stand till just warm or room temperature. Refrigerate.  Reheat in double boiler. Add more chocolate if sauce seems too thin. Let cool a little after reheating so it’s a little less runny.

Photo from Carol Adamo

The Smithtown Service Unit 25 Girl Scouts filled 300 Christmas stockings and delivered them to the Smithtown Food Pantry, St. Patrick’s Outreach and the Smithtown Historical Society’s collection for Angela’s House. Twenty-three Daisy, Brownie, Junior, Cadette, Senior and Ambassador Girl Scout troops participated in the project. 

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By Linda Toga

screen-shot-2016-12-08-at-3-41-23-pmTHE FACTS: With the holidays fast approaching, I’ve been thinking about making gifts of cash to my grown children. I’ve heard that I can give each child $14,000 without any negative tax consequences. I am not wealthy but, at this point, I believe I can afford to give each of my children $14,000. I know they could really use the money.

THE QUESTION: Is there any reason I should think twice before making the gifts?

THE ANSWER: The quick answer is that when you’re talking about giving away thousands of dollars, you should always think twice. That being said, there are many factors that you should consider before deciding whether making significant cash gifts to your children is in your best interest.

Since you did not mention your age, your health status or the number of children you have, it is difficult to say which factors may prove the most important in your decision-making process.

Under current federal gift tax laws, a person can give any number of people up to $14,000 a year without incurring any gift tax liability. The recipients of the gifts need not report them on their tax returns and can simply enjoy the grantor’s generosity.

The need for the grantor to report gifts to the IRS only arises if the value of the gifts made to any one person in a single calendar year exceeds the $14,000 gift exclusion.  In that case, in April following the year in which gifts valued at over $14,000 were given to a single recipient, the grantor is required to file a gift tax return with the IRS. The return reports the amount of the gift in excess of $14,000.

For example, if the grantor made a gift of $20,000, he would have to report $6,000 of the gift on the gift tax return. Under current federal law, no gift tax will be due unless and until the cumulative value of the gifts reported by the grantor exceeds the estate tax exclusion amount in effect when the gift tax return is filed.

For gifts made in 2015 and reported in 2016, the grantor would not have to pay any gift tax unless the value of his cumulative lifetime gifts exceeded $5.45 million. Under New York State law, there is no gift tax, but the value of gifts made in the last three (3) years of the grantor’s life may be added to the value of his estate for purposes of calculating estate tax.

Since most people are not in a position to give away millions of dollars during their lifetime, whether or not a gift triggers a gift tax liability is usually not a deciding factor in making gifts. A more important factor for many grantors is whether they will need the money as they age. The cost of long-term care and the possibility that the grantor may need to apply for Medicaid are factors that frequently dictate whether gifting is a good option.

While the gift tax laws allow people to make gifts of up to $14,000 to countless people each year without adverse tax consequences, Medicaid eligibility is not governed by the tax code. As a result, many people who make gifts in accordance with the IRS guidelines are later surprised to find they are penalized for making those gifts when applying for Medicaid.

Under the Medicaid guidelines, gifts made within five (5) years of applying for benefits may trigger a penalty period based upon the value of those gifts. For younger, healthier grantors, the risk of having to apply for benefits within five (5) years of making a gift and then facing a penalty period may be minimal. However, the risk increases for the elderly or those with serious health conditions.

If you feel that you have adequate assets to cover the cost of your care, or if you have a generous long-term care insurance policy, you may not be concerned about the cost of care down the line, in which case making significant gifts to your children should be fine.

However, before you actually write those $14,000 checks to your children, I encourage you to carefully look at both your financial and physical health and assess your risk tolerance. After all, you don’t want to make the gifts this year and then have to ask your children to return the money or pay for your care next year.

Linda M. Toga, Esq. provides legal services in the areas of estate planning, probate and estate administration, real estate, small business service and litigation from her East Setauket office.