To gear up for this Saturday’s world tour, Santa took a practice run in Williamsburg.
On Saturday, December 17th, Councilmember Diana Reyna held her eighth annual Holiday Toy Extravaganza at the Williamsburg Community Center. Over two hundred excited families lined up to see Kris Kringle, and the jolly old man did not disappoint. Five hundred kids received wrapped presents ranging from dolls to video games, thanks to an untiring team of young volunteers from the Center’s staff and the Councilmember’s office.
2011 has not been an easy year for the Williamsburg community. Many parents have struggled just to house, clothe and feed their children. In an effort to ensure some holiday cheer for every child, Councilmember Reyna teamed up with the nonprofit Grand Street Business Improvement District (BID) to continue the tradition of providing gifts to those who need them the most.
“With the economy the way it is and all the requests we’ve been getting, I know there will be many of us who’ll not be fortunate enough to provide gifts to their families,” said Reyna. “Through generous donations we’ve collected over 1,000 toys – we really want to help our residents celebrate the happiest time of the year.”
Twenty-three organizations sponsored the event, including North Brooklyn businesses and nonprofits such as the Greenpoint Toy Center and the People’s Firehouse. Eva De Jesus, president and founder of Bushwick-based Eva Sports Club, kept an eye on children who couldn’t resist running and playing as they waited on a long line to see Santa. “This is a wonderful time for the people,” said De Jesus. “The kids are so happy.”
Jamael Lynch, a professional basketball player who grew up playing on the Center’s court and still lives across the street also helped out at the event. Lynch, a free agent who just finished playing for the Erie BayHawks (an expansion team in the NBA Development League), was invited to participate by his good friend Juan Ortiz, one of the Center’s Board of Directors.
“I called Mr. Ortiz and asked what I could do to help for the holidays,” said Lynch. “He said come down to the Extravaganza.”
Musical entertainment came from the Victory Outreach North Brooklyn Church Chorus. Enthusiastic kids clapped their hands to a spirited performance of Christmas classics, including “Jingle Bell Rock” and “Feliz Navidad.” But the most popular volunteer was Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Children flocked to give Santa’s ninth reindeer a big hug and some couldn’t resist touching his luminous nose. Rudolph took it in stride and happily posed for pictures with his new friends.
The volunteers were all eager to give back to their community. Lynch saw it as an opportunity to encourage others to follow his example. “If I can do it, everyone can do it. It’s a perpetual cycle of getting better. But the ultimate fulfillment is to be of service. If you can contribute something to a kid’s single moment, like today, that’s the best thing in life.”