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Spirit of giving felt across the city for Christmas

Cyril Josh Barker | 12/19/2013, 11:01 a.m.
Celebrity toy drive, benefit for Harlem Dowling kids

All across the city, New Yorkers are realizing the true meaning of Christmas and giving back to those in the community who are less fortunate. While help is needed on all fronts year-round, most understand that during the holidays, lending a helping hand has more meaning. Whether they’re giving a toy for a child, a meal for an elderly person or a coat for the homeless, everyone is getting in on the spirit of giving back.

“22,000 children will sleep in homeless shelters—that’s a 65 percent increase in the last decade alone. Homelessness is devastating for anyone, but especially a child,” said officials from Coalition for the Homeless. “When moving from shelter to shelter, toys, books and other special mementos are often lost or must be left behind. A simple toy can make a world of difference to these youngsters.”

Coalition for the Homeless wrapped up its nearly month-long toy drive with their Kid’s Holiday Carnival with the United Federation of Teachers. Each child received a present and a gift bag stuffed with extra goodies. On Christmas Day, the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network (NAN) will be spreading holiday cheer with their annual Christmas at NAN event. NAN is hosting a holiday meal as well as a toy giveaway.

A group of young professionals, led by civil rights activist NAACP Region II Director Marvin Bing, community activist Tamika Mallory and Global Grind President Michael Skolnik, are hosting Christmas in Harlem. The day-long event on Dec. 21 includes a gift basket giveaway at a the Alma Rangel Gardens Assisted Living Facility, a book reading, a toy giveaway at Harlem Hospital’s Children’s Unit, and toy giveaway and dinner at Drew Hamilton Houses.

“We wanted to find some way to give back to people in the community,” Bing said. “When a lot of people from the neighborhood gain a level of success, young people are looking for a mentor to teach them. This is one way we decided to give back along with our advocacy work in the community.”

Guests at the event will include former host of “106 & Park” Free, actor and musician Mack Wilds, rising boxing star Kid Chocolate, actor and star of “The Wire” J.D. Williams and Revolt TV personality Rashad Drakeford.

On Wednesday, Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, state Sen. Adriano Espaillat and Assembly Member Gabriela Rosa joined Dad’s Away Foundation, the Marines’ Toys for Tots Organization and the Dominican Women’s Development Center as they gave away toys to over 100 Washington Heights-based children who come from single-mother households.

This week, S.W. Roseburgh and Landon Dais are hosting their fourth annual toy drive at MIST Harlem. Attendees unwrapped toys, gift cards and new or gently used coats. The gifts are for children ages 4-14. The items will be donated to the Convent Avenue Family Shelter, the Lenox 130th Street Family Shelter and Kimberly Mance Mothers of Color Organization.

New York Cares kicked off its 25th annual coat drive. The organization says thousands of homeless New Yorkers need a coat to help them get through the winter. Nearly 90 percent of the homeless population will rely on a donated coat this winter to keep from freezing. Coat donations are being taken through Feb. 7.

“This year, more agencies than ever before have reached out to us requesting coats,” said Susan Torres of New York Cares. “We’re collecting and distributing them as fast as we can, but many people in need are leaving centers empty-handed. Clients at the East Harlem Asthma Center for Excellence were lining up one to two hours before the scheduled distribution time, and the coats ran out before everyone could get one.”