By Tracey Porpora Staten Island Advance
STATEN ISLAND — With many Hurricane Sandy victims still unable to return to their homes, and others still trying to get back on their feet financially, two organizations have teamed up to make sure children affected by the storm have happy holidays this year.
The two groups — Where-To-Turn and the Secret Sandy Claus project — seek to collect 15,000 toys for children affected by Sandy, said Michael Sciaraffo, aka “Sandy Claus.”
“We gave out nearly 8,000 toys to Hurricane Sandy victims last year,” said Dennis McKeon, executive director of Where-To-Turn. “The need for toys is still there. A lot of people are still underwater with all their other bills; they don’t have a lot of money left over for these types of things.”
Said Sciaraffo, “A lot of people don’t have the comfort of being in their home and being able to have Christmas. Many Sandy victims are not in the position of spending hundreds of dollars on Christmas.”
With over 2,000 toys left over from last year, Where-To-Turn, a not-for-profit that opened a toy store in Great Kills last year for victims of Hurricane Sandy, is seeking a new storefront for another seasonal store for Sandy victims.
“We’re hoping to get a centrally located storefront donated for the month of December, and we’ll do what we did last year. We’ll open it every day, have it staffed with volunteers and make the toys available to Sandy victims,” said McKeon.
He said the organization also would like to work with Island schools and organizations to run toy drives.
“We’ll come and pick up the donated toys and add them to our collection,” said McKeon, noting the current stock of toys left over from last year is being kept in a storage unit.
Meanwhile, Sciaraffo hopes to open other stores on Staten Island and in another affected areas of the city to help distribute toys to Sandy victims.
While he has 80 people signed up, Sciaraffo said he needs volunteers to be Santa, “elves” to match Santa routes with toy recipients, “toy makers” who will collect toys, “sleigh drivers” to pick up and drop off toys in their own vehicles, and “reindeer feeders,” to collect money for gas and tolls to operate the project.
With “a few hundred” toys left over from last year, over 4,000 toys were distributed through the Sandy Claus project, said Sciaraffo.
If you have a storefront available, or would like to organize a toy drive for use by Where to Turn, call 718-966-6531 or go to Where-to-turn.org.