Local resident gives back through annual holiday gift card drive for teens

This Giving Tuesday, local resident Sara Steinweiss was doing what she does best – collecting for those in need.

Steinweiss, a former New Utrecht High School teacher and longtime community activist, is in the midst of her seventh annual gift card drive for teenagers in foster care, for which she started collecting donations around Thanksgiving.

“I started the event seven years ago,” Steinweiss told this paper. “It was around the time that I had retired from teaching, and I’d been working with teenagers for so many years that I just knew, on that level, what happens around the holidays.”

Oftentimes, she said, teens in need get the short end of the stick when it comes to holiday drives.

“You know, everyone does toy drives, but a lot of the time, the teens are really left out,” she said. “So I spoke to a few of my friends and said, ‘Let’s get some gift cards.’”

Today, the drive — which typically brings in over $1,000 worth of cards — is a force to be reckoned with.

Steinweiss works closely with MercyFirst, the organization that once operated out of the storied, now-shuttered Angel Guardian Home in Dyker Heights, but, still in operation today, serves more than 200 teenagers in foster homes.

Popular donations, she said, include gift cards to CVS, Walgreens, Dunkin Donuts and even the movies. “Anywhere teenagers would shop,” she said.

To date, the drive has brought in over $10,000 in gift cards, all of which run the gamut.

Steinweiss is accepting donations via mail through December 10. Those interested in participating can mail their gift card or cards to Steinweiss at P.O. Box 40229, Brooklyn, NY 11204.

She plans to bring the donations to MercyFirst on December 15 – just in time for the holidays.

“I’m grateful that everyone continues to be a part of this because it’s a simple act like this that can change the way a teenager feels about themselves,” she said, “even just for one day.”

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