Reaching Out Community Services presented its 12th annual Operation Christmas Smiles Spectacular Events Dec. 16 at St. Mary, Mother of Jesus Church, Bensonhurst. It is one of many parish and community groups helped at Christmas by The Tablet’s Bright Christmas Campaign.
The event offers low-income families a chance to celebrate Christmas together. Children had the opportunity to meet and receive a gift from Santa, while also seeing performances by many of their favorite characters. There were also carnival games, face painting and plenty of Christmas music.
“Today is just about putting smiles on peoples’ faces especially those that are financially disadvantaged,” said Thomas Neve, executive director of Reaching Out Community Services. “It is just to bring some good cheer and help relieve the stress of the holidays that many families go through.”
Because of the demand for help in the area, Reaching Out has scheduled a second Christmas party Dec. 23 at its headquarters on New Utrecht Ave.
“Between our two events we expect to give gifts to about 800 children and we are so happy to provide for these children and to seem them happy for Christmas. That is what it is all about,” said Neve.
Police Officer Teresa Romolo was there to donate gifts that were collected by the NYPD and Marine Corps through Toys for Tots.
“We are here to give back to the community,” said Officer Romolo. “There are a lot of underprivileged children that deserve to have a great holiday season whichever they celebrate.
“Today is all about the children and their needs and it is so great to see so many smiling faces. We are lucky enough to celebrate with our loved ones and enjoy the season why should these kids not have the same and be able to smile.”
Majda Behgoerouani was there with her three children and all of them were having fun.
“Today is great,” she said. “All my children are going a little wild but they are doing great. They are all having so much fun and I am too.
“My youngest son is not yet two, so this is his first time coming and he is going a little crazy. He wants to see and play with everything. We are all so happy to be able to come to this together and have fun.”
In addition to Bright Christmas, the event was sponsored and had gifts donated by St. Mary Mother of Jesus parish, the Rotary Club of Verrazano, 68th Precinct Community Council, Project Hope NY, PC’s Bar and Grill, Community Preservation Corporation, Dyker Heights Civic Association, and NYC Department of Sanitation Garage BK12.