Tags Posts tagged with "Gifts"

Gifts

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 [email protected]

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.”

Coram resident Vincent James, right, poses for a photo with his family members at the Holiday Dream event in Coram. Photo by Giselle Barkley

For the past eight years, Rhonda Klch and her company Equity First have made many dreams come true.

This year is no different with Klch’s annual Holiday Dream event, which provides Christmas gifts for Long Island families in need. On Sunday, residents who registered for the event picked up their Christmas presents at the Coram Fire Department headquarters from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Klch, a Miller Place resident, and event volunteers upped the ante this year by getting gifts for around 250 families from Mount Sinai, Miller Place, Port Jefferson, Port Jefferson Station, Selden, Medford and other towns across the Island.

A little girl plays with a balloon during Rhonda Klch’s Holiday Dream event. Photo by Giselle Barkley
A little girl plays with a balloon during Rhonda Klch’s Holiday Dream event. Photo by Giselle Barkley

“These kids feel like they’re walking on a cloud,” said Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), as several children ran around with balloons in the background after receiving their presents and meeting Santa.

Cartright was one of many people Klch called this year when searching for families in need of some holiday cheer. Local schools and churches were also contacted to find these families. While the families don’t need to be homeless to participate in the program, many of these families are financially unable to afford presents around the holidays.

People like Gordon Leonard of Selden said with the recession it’s harder to live on Long Island, making special seasons like the holidays more stressful.

“We came here because some Long Islanders understand the plight of many other Long Islanders, and they’re giving because they know people are struggling just to be New Yorkers,” he said. “We don’t want to leave. What choice do we have.”

While his son Devon received several gifts from the program this year, he said his favorite part about Sunday’s program was spending time with his family.

According to volunteer Priscilla Arena, of Mount Sinai, the event was a success this year.

“The outpour from the community has been tremendous and I’m hoping that it’ll only increase next year,” she said.

Last year, the event helped around 167 families. Arena got involved with the program around a month ago after Klch, a business associate and friend of hers, told her about the event. For Arena, helping the program and the families who benefit seemed natural.

For residents like Tiana Wyche, who lives in a shelter, Holiday Dream was important to bring joy to her children. Wyche is originally from Riverhead but currently resides in Port Jefferson Station.

Rhonda Klch, on right, poses for a photo with volunteer Priscilla Arena at the Holiday Dream event in Coram. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Rhonda Klch, on right, poses for a photo with volunteer Priscilla Arena at the Holiday Dream event in Coram. Photo by Giselle Barkley

“Unfortunately, financial restrictions impact everybody and it becomes difficult over holidays,” Klch said. “I think people have this perception that just because you live somewhere, you’re doing very well. But unfortunately, people get so blind.”

Klch added that people don’t always realize how many families struggle to live on the Island, much less celebrate the holidays. She started spreading the word about the event among people in the business district. While Holiday Dream is the main event where children pick up their toys and have breakfast with Santa, there are toy drive events prior to Holiday Dream that Klch and her company host to raise more donations.

For Carmen Nunez and her family, who moved from the Dominican Republic to Port Jefferson Station, the program was extra special. Her family wasn’t used to getting presents around this time of year.

“I feel so happy,” she said. “Thank you to [Comsewogue ESL teacher Denise Saul] and everybody who tried to make [the children happy by giving them presents], especially this time for Christmas. It’s beautiful.”

While the family is trying to do the best they can here on Long Island, Saul said they are continuing the event’s mission of giving to others and spreading joy.

“Even though we gave them presents, they’re talking about who they can share [the presents with],” Saul said. “They are selfless themselves.”

According to Cartright, remembering the spirit of giving is important this time of year, and she hopes to keep giving in the future through the Holiday Dream program.

“A lot of community organizations and individuals come together to remind the kids that this is a season of giving,” Cartright said. “The holiday season is not only about receiving. They’re reaching hundreds of kids now, and I can only imagine as the years go by, how many kids we’re going to be changing their lives by letting them know they’re loved and supported by the community.”

by -
0 619

Most kids see hoverboards as the next hot toy, but they don’t know how literal that is.

U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) spoke this week about the dangers of hoverboards shipped from overseas, with batteries that have sometimes burst into flames. He said the type of battery being used in foreign-made hoverboards is unstable if not stored and charged properly.

While this problem seems like the most dangerous reason not to buy a hoverboard this holiday season, there are more concerns shoppers should consider. These boards are serious pieces of machinery. There are hundreds of videos of kids displaying their skills and tricks on hoverboards, as well as many videos of kids wiping out as they try to learn how to maneuver. Everyone who operates a hoverboard should exercise caution with these new devices, for themselves and for those around them.

These machines gain speed quickly and a slight shift in weight can quickly turn into a crash. Parents should consider requiring kids to wear helmets while riding, and should talk about how to use one safely, such as by keeping a certain distance away from pedestrians and staying within certain speeds.

When someone starts the ignition of a car, that person is expected to drive safely, thinking about other drivers and pedestrians on the road. The same should go for anyone on hoverboards, or any other motorized ride.

Congressman Steve Israel speaks on the dangers of hoverboards at the Commack Fire Department on Dec. 15. Photo by Victoria Espinoza.

One of this year’s hot holiday items might be a little too hot.

Hoverboards have been flying off the shelves this holiday season, but recent safety issues, including multiple cases of boards catching fire or exploding, have given some shoppers pause. That’s why U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D) gathered with members of the Commack Fire Department Tuesday and urged consumers against buying hoverboards specifically made in China, because he said the type of batteries used in them may ignite.

“Hoverboards may be the hot holiday gift, but they are literally catching on fire and igniting questions about their safety and the safety of lithium-ion batteries,” Israel said. “New Yorkers should remain hesitant before purchasing these hoverboards and stay vigilant while using and charging them.”

Hoverboards are self-balancing and electronic two-wheeled devices on which people can travel from place to place. When riding one, a person may appear to be levitating, or hovering, similarly to those on the hoverboards featured in the film “Back to the Future II.”

Israel stood beside a photo display of several fires that the Commack department had already responded to where hoverboards caused combustion inside someone’s home, destroying property and, sometimes, entire rooms.

Hoverboards shipped from overseas use lithium ion batteries, which can combust if heated or overcharged due to their limited voltage range. Israel called for more research from the U.S. Department of Energy on the safety of using lithium ion batteries in hoverboards.

The congressman also noted that airports already task their security personnel to remove all lithium ion batteries from checked bags for the same reason.

“Well if we know that those lithium ion batteries could be a hazard to the plane, and we know a hover board with a lithium ion battery could be hazardous to our homes, that says we need to do a little bit more research,” Israel said.

Commack Fire Marshal Joe Digiose flanked the congressman on Tuesday and said he urged residents to be careful when buying hoverboards until more research is completed. He said there is no research that shows the American-made products are not working well, but the ones from overseas pose more of a danger and are being shipped at a very high rate to the United States.

“We recommend you don’t buy them but if you do, buy an American-made one,” he said.

Don Talka speaks on research of lithium ion batteries at the Commack Fire Department on Dec. 15. Photo by Victoria Espinoza
Don Talka speaks on research of lithium ion batteries at the Commack Fire Department on Dec. 15. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Don Talka, senior vice president and chief engineer at Underwriters Laboratories has been involved in research on lithium ion batteries for years, starting back when they were involved with similar issues in laptops. He said the major problem is the mating of the battery with the rest of the electronics used in the hoverboards.

“What we’ve learned through our research … is that the combination and how these pieces interact causes the issues,” Talka said. “And how the batteries are charged and discharged are all items which need further investigation.”

At the press conference, Israel inspected the box that a hoverboard came in, and said that despite all the instructions and caution labels about the product, there is nothing to be said about the battery.

“That has been established as one of the single greatest threats to property and potentially lives when they’re coming from China,” Israel said. “That’s why we want to comply with the energy chair to fully research this and make sure that people aren’t being exposed to greater risk and threat by lithium ion batteries.”

by -
0 994
Hailey Del Giorno, left, is out for a meal with three of the girls she works with at Little Flower Children and Family Services of New York in Wading River. Photo from Hailey Del Giorno

It isn’t typical for a 9-year-old to reject the joy of crafting a Christmas list from scratch, but that’s exactly what 22-year-old Setauket native Hailey Del Giorno encountered.

Del Giorno, a Ward Melville High School graduate, recently launched a campaign to raise money to buy holiday gifts for children she works with at Little Flower Children and Family Services of New York in Wading River. She works in Mary’s Cottage with girls between ages 9 and 16, providing foster boarding home care, residential treatment care and adolescent development. And while she said she knew raising funds would be a challenge, she did not expect the toys list to be equally as difficult.

“They seemed hesitant at first,” Del Giorno, who is now studying psychology at St. Joseph’s College, said about the young girls’ reluctance to share their holiday wishes. “They didn’t seem to want to get their hopes up.”

Del Giorno landed the Wading River job over the summer to satisfy her desire to help others in need and has since been working closely with the young girls, many of whom come from abusive or neglectful homes, every weekend over shifts that could run as long as 12 hours. Since June, she has been working on developing relationships with these girls, but it was not easy, she said.

The group did not openly trust Del Giorno at first, she said, often misconstruing her caring demeanor as intrusive or fake. But she made it a point to squash those misconceptions by working longer and longer shifts on a week-by-week basis.

“These girls have tendencies to be defensive, untrusting and resistive to authority figures because of what they have been through,” she said. “When I started getting to know the girls, I wanted to show them that I had a true interest in learning who they were as people.”

And with each passing week, and each blossoming relationship, Del Giorno said she saw the upcoming holiday season as an opportunity to give back and show the girls that she’s on their side.

Her co-workers and even family members jumped into action. The goal was to raise $5,000 for the girls so Del Giorno and her team could buy them holiday presents and take them out to dinner on Christmas somewhere in the community. She launched an online crowd-funding page via Gofundme.com and has since raise close to $2,000 of that goal, with more than two weeks left, and has spent weeks polling her girls with hopes of assembling a holiday items wish list.

“Hailey I’m so proud of you,” supporter Belinda Groneman wrote on the page. “You have a big heart”

Maria Adams also chimed in.

“God bless you for caring,” she said alongside her donation.

And even when she did get an answer, they were still selfless ones. Several of the girls Del Giorno approached used their holiday gift wishes as opportunities to request items for siblings or loved ones instead, including anything from Barbie dolls to paint brushes and portable Casio keyboards.

In the end, Del Giorno said she hopes to make a lasting impression on the girls and remind them that family does not have to be just along their bloodlines.

“In my family, we always practiced the concept of giving back to the less fortunate,” she said. “After [my family] learned to care about these girls the way I did, we felt we needed to give these girls an extra special Christmas … They are all unique and special in their own ways and shine so positively when they are passionate and excited.”

by -
0 651

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the chaos of shopping for holiday gifts during the December rush. Most of us are trying to get in and out of stores and malls as quickly as possible, but staying a little bit longer could go a long way this holiday season if we all make an effort to buy just one more present.

It doesn’t have to be a big one, like a video game console — although we’re sure nobody would mind that — but we could all buy just one more gift and donate it to a child in need through a local church or charity. There are kids whose parents simply cannot afford gifts, or live in domestic violence shelters, or don’t have parents at all. Those kids deserve a little happiness, too, to know that they are part of a community and that there are other people out there who care about them. We could also consider donating a gift to a hospital or a nursing home, where there could sometimes be people without family to remember them during the holidays.

Our newspaper told a story this week about a 22-year-old woman from Setauket who spent the last month raising money to buy holiday gifts for underprivileged teenagers. Her name is Hailey Del Giorno and she works at Little Flower Children and Family Services (631-929-6200) in Wading River. She is an only child and grew up reaping the bounty of the Christmas morning loot. But that did not deter her from reaching out to those who may be less fortunate, and she has already raised close to $2,000 to provide presents to teenagers she works with at the nonprofit organization.

We also see many local schools raising money to donate toys to those who are less fortunate. The Students Against Drunk Driving club at Mount Sinai raised money for Holiday Magic (631-265-7200), a not-for-profit organization that dedicates itself to making the holidays special for less fortunate children and their families. The club raised more than $7,000 and went shopping at Walmart and the Smith Haven Mall to purchase gifts for 67 children.

We, too, could look beyond ourselves and make our community better this holiday season.

There are strangers all around us who need a friend. Let’s make a difference in one of their lives during the season of giving.

by -
0 826

By Bob Lipinski

I am absolutely the best holiday shopper and everyone loves my gifts. My secret? I do all my shopping in a liquor store — wine shop, if you prefer — and it takes less than one hour. Forget those long lines, crowded malls and roads that resemble parking lots. I have never had a gift returned because it doesn’t “fit,” it’s the wrong color or size, it’s out of style, or “I already have one of these.”

There are countless holiday gift packs of wine and distilled spirits, some even contain glasses to enjoy the beverage. From cardboard boxes, tins, ribbons, bows and wooden boxes, each is colorfully decorated and makes a great gift. If you’re uncomfortable making a selection or really don’t know that much about wines and spirits, simply ask one of the store’s employees for assistance.

Some of my suggested wines and spirits for the holidays that won’t break your pocketbook are:

Bubbly
Cavicchioli Lambrusco “Vigna del Cristo” (Emilia-Romagna, Italy)
Roederer Estate “Brut” (Anderson Valley, California)

Wines
Ferrari-Carano “Fumé Blanc” (Sonoma, California), white
Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel (Lodi, California), red
Sella & Mosca “Cannonau Riserva” (Sardinia, Italy), red
Nino Negri “Quadrio” (Lombardy, Italy), red

Spirits
Jim Beam “Black Label” Bourbon Whiskey (Kentucky)
Old Forester Bourbon Whiskey (Kentucky)
The Famous Grouse “Blended Scotch Whisky” (Scotland)
Black & White Blended Scotch Whisky (Scotland)
New Amsterdam Vodka (USA)
Svedka Vodka (Sweden)

Now, if you want to go all-out and impress, here are a some more suggestions:

Bubbly
Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill “Brut” (Champagne, France)
Besserat “Blanc de Blancs” (Champagne, France)

Wines
Gundlach-Bundschu “Chardonnay” (Sonoma, California), white
Olivier Leflaive “Puligny-Montrachet” (Burgundy, France), white
Clos du Val “Cabernet Sauvignon” (Napa, California), red
Domaine Alain Burguet “Chambolle-Musigny” (Burgundy, France), red
Zuccardi “Reserva Malbec” (Mendoza, Argentina), red

Spirits
Chivas Regal 18-Year Old Blended Scotch Whisky (Scotland)
Booker’s Straight “Small Batch” Bourbon Whiskey (Kentucky)
Diplomatico Reserva 8-Year old Rum (Venezuela)
Prunier XO Cognac (France)

Now, what do I want as a holiday gift? A bottle of Baker’s, 107 proof, 7-Year-Old Bourbon, and a long straw to keep me happy on a cold winter night.

Also, recently, I had the opportunity to taste a simply delicious rosé wine from Provence, France, which will certainly be part of my holiday celebration. Maison Belle Claire Rosé is salmon-colored, with a luscious bouquet and taste of fresh fruits, cherries, peaches, strawberries, and orange. It is light, dry and refreshing, with plenty of fruit. Serve it chilled as part of your holiday brunch celebration.

In the words of the late Clifton Fadiman, an American writer, editor and book reviewer for The New Yorker, “Wine is alive, and when you offer it to your fellow man you are offering him life. That is why there are few better gifts to send than a case or two — or a bottle or two — of wine. It is not that when drinking it, they will recall the donor — if you crave such vulgar satisfactions, it is more efficient to send them a chair with a pair of spurs set in the upholstery. It is that, when drinking it, they will become more conscious of themselves, of their own capacity for joy.”

Bob Lipinski, a local author, has written nine books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on Amazon.com). He conducts training seminars on wine, spirits, and food; and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at www.boblipinski.com or [email protected]