Tags Posts tagged with "Presents"


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.”

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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.

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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.”

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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.