Always The Right Time For Toys For Tots

    Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Jen DeSena was among those on hand to watch the Toys for Tots distribution at the EOC. (Photo by Wendy Goldstein)

    The U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots Foundation was formed to donate gifts to underprivileged children peak during the Christmas season. But it doesn’t mean the gifting can’t happen at any other time.
    Due to the supply chain problems, said Major Chuck Kilbride, USMC, Retired, head of Long Island Toys for Tots, a big delivery arrived after the season, and he’s been distributing toys to various institutions all year.
    The latest such event took place last month at the Manhasset-Great Neck Economic Opportunity Council, Inc. (EOC) on High Street in Manhasset. About 1,000 toys were donated to the at-risk children served by the EOC.

    It was an unexpected “Christmas in May” at the EOC. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

    Nassau County Comptroller Elaine Phillips stood in the gymnasium as the big white boxes with the Toys for Tots logo were being set up. She greeted some of the children, as well as EOC Executive Director Stephanie Chenault, The gym, Chenault noted, had been refurbished with moneys secured by then-Senator Phillips when she served in the state Senate.
    The building had once been the Valley School, serving the children of the mainly African American Spinney Hill area between Great Neck and Manhasset.
    “As long as I can remember, we’ve gotten Toys for Tots,” Chenault affirmed.
    Toys for Tots Co-Chairs Joe LaPadula and Jon Holzer drove the toys to the EOC in two vans. The toys had been stored at the county’s Office of Emergency Management warehouse in Bethpage.
    LaPadula is the founder/president of Martino Auto Concepts in Glen Cove while Holzer is the vice president there. LaPadula said they were next going to the Glen Cove EOC for a delivery.

    Major Chuck Kilbride, USMC (Ret.), directs students where to stand.
    (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

    “This guy,” Kilbride said, pointing to LaPadula, “collected 126,000 toys in one day. It’s the largest collection drive in America.”
    The major was referring to a huge drop-off event at Nassau County the organization held last year, as it had the previous several years.
    LaPadula said he has been working for Kilbride for about a dozen years.
    Another co-chair is John’s wife Barbara. In their early years in Manhasset she had volunteered at the EOC and met Chenault at a community meeting. She remembered the executive director from her time volunteering and asked if the EOC would be interested in a donation.
    “Oh my God, yes,” Chenault had replied.
    “Why this place?” LaPadula was asked.
    “Because this is our community,” she replied. “We had an excess of toys that we had collected but had done the distribution already.”
    When her husband said to her “What should we do with them?” she knew the answer.

    Phillips said she had been recruited by Kilbride to help out several years ago, and recalled a toy donation at NYU Langone in Mineola she attended last July.
    “The idea was, at Christmas, everyone is so generous. What about the rest of the year?” Phillips observed.
    “This was more special,” added Barbara LaPadula. “They weren’t expecting it.”
    Based solely on the delighted faces of the children, she was right.

    This young lady checks out her brand new toy.
    (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

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