By Emily Drooby
Brooklynite Valerie Ferguson is out of work this Christmas.
“Financially I’m strapped, but God is good and we’re able to be blessed so I came to take advantage.”
Approximately 675 local families were “able to be blessed” through Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens’ Christmas toy giveaways in December. The unique events gave parents and grandparents the chance to pick out an item for each of their children or grandchildren.
“I think it is much more meaningful that a parent picks out the gift for their child than us picking out a gift,” explained Debbie Hampson, director of community programming services for Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens. “They know their child and they know what their child likes and what their child has.”
Restored Faith in Humanity
Ferguson, who picked out toys for four of her six grandchildren at the St. Vincent Ferrer parish distribution event in East Flatbush, said that events like this restore her faith in humanity.
“America is starting to lose compassion for others, so when you find stuff like this, it lets you know that somebody is thinking about us,” she said.
Each participant received a number and when it was called, volunteers who acted as personal shopper elves helped families to pick out that perfect gift.
“They love being helped, they love the idea of shopping, they love that they’re finding just sort-of the perfect thing for their kid,” said event volunteer Susan Galligan.
Recipients walked away with one toy per child and at least a $25 gift card. In all, Catholic Charities donated over $100,000 in gift cards to families in need. Toy donations came from local businesses, parishes and schools throughout the diocese. Families also had an opportunity to receive coats collected through New York Cares.
Nancy Cortes, one of the recipients, explained that the event made her Christmas a little brighter.
“It helped me a lot because I’ve got my grandkids living with me,” she said. “My tree was kinda empty but thanks to Catholic Charities I’m here today, I’m getting my gifts.”
A similar event was held at St. Margaret Mary Chapel, Astoria.