As they’ve done in each of the prior 16 years, CitiStorage founders Elaine and Norm Brodsky, President Louis Weiner and their staff spent the past few weeks shopping and wrapping Christmas presents for the kids at the League Education and Treatment Center (LETC), one of the premier institutions for developmentally disabled children and adults. The company’s annual tradition has been to forego a typical holiday party in favor of a more charitable approach, so once the last toy has been bought and the final ribbon placed, they head over to the LETC. Over the course of a week, they help unwrap the gifts, assemble them and then play with the kids, most of whom come from economic backgrounds that don’t allow for expensive presents.
The first delivery was scheduled for Monday, December 17th, and the timing could not have been more poignant, in the aftermath of Friday’s mass shooting at a Newtown, Connecticut elementary school, which left 27 dead, including 20 children.
“This year’s gifts to the children of the League were especially meaningful,” the Brodskys said. “More than ever, we all need to come together and take care of each other.”
School attendance was unusually low on Monday, with many worried parents keeping their kids home. But the positive effect on the state of mind of the students who were present was very clear. The Brodskys and League CEO Hannah Kinn both commented on the “sparkle in their eyes,” as they opened their presents. “Here we care for our children and other people’s children,” Kinn said. “That’s what the Brodskys do, too. Not only them, but they give their staff the opportunity to help children, throughout the year.”
Like all the adults, Kinn was frustrated by the sense of security lost after Newtown. “We take safety seriously,” she said. “We have frequent fire drills and the most modern fire alarms. We keep our children safe from fires. How do we keep them safe from bullets? Our current attempts to keep our children safe are an illusion that comforts them and fools us.”
Kinn also joined with many experts around the country to decry reports that the Newtown shooter’s crime was the result of autism (it’s been reported that Adam Lanza had Asperger syndrome).
The sound of wrapping paper being torn and cheering children, on Monday, reminded the adults, including Assemblyman Joe Lentol, who helped distribute the toys, that despite Newtown, Sandy and a relentlessly poor economy, they are able to positively affect the lives of kids in need. “It’s really a blessing that Norm and Elaine bring their staff with joy and gusto,” Kinn said. “They are wonderful friends and neighbors and the children sense their goodness.”
“Watching their smiles and enthusiasm after witnessing the horrific events in Connecticut brought us back to the real reason we do this project every year,” the Brodskys said. “It is truly heartwarming and rewarding to give, but in the end, we are the true recipients and are getting more in return.”