Members of the 68th Precinct Community Council and the Dyker Heights Civic Association (DHCA) got together recent for what has become an annual tradition — celebrating the holiday season with music performed by students at McKinley Intermediate School, caroling provided by the Guild for Exceptional Children, during a party marking the culmination of the two groups’ yearly toy drive.
At the party, held on Tuesday, December 12 at Redeemer St. John’s Lutheran Church, 939 83rd Street, the mounds of toys collected over the preceding several weeks were split between two causes close to members’ hearts — Reaching-Out Community Services, which runs a food pantry in Bensonhurst and which puts on a large holiday party for needy children each year, and the kids at Fort Hamilton Army Base whose parents are deployed.
In addition, the 68th Precinct Community Council gave Reaching-Out a check for $250 to aid the not-for-profit organization in its service to the financially disadvantaged.
“Our organization has thousands of families registered,” noted Tom Neve, Reaching-Out’s founder and executive director. “We just want to put a smile on children’s faces and relieve the parents a little. We are thankful to you guys because you help make it happen.”
Colonel Peter Sicoli, the fort’s commander, noted that, not only do area residents show their support for the military at holiday time, but year round. “The support we get from the Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights communities is fantastic, the best I’ve seen in my 26 years of service,” he said. “The love we get 365 days a year is simply phenomenal.”
DHCA provided a donation to the Guild to support its efforts on behalf of the developmentally disabled.
Also donated to the fort were a bounty of baked goods, collected by local activist Kathy Khatari through a drive she dubbed “Cookies for the Troops,” and kicked off this year in memory of her brother, Firefighter William Gormley, who died in June of 9/11-related cancer. Gormley had served in the armed forces.
Finally, two Dyker Heights brothers, Nick and Mike Fiorito, were recognized with civic awards from DHCA for their “Blankets of Hope” initiative, begun last year, in which they distribute blankets to homeless people, with about 1,000 given out so far.
“Homeless people really do need our help,” noted Mike Fiorito, who said the duo not only hands out the blankets, but also stops to talk with the recipients.
“Just a few words makes all the difference,” he stressed. “Some of these people haven’t heard their names in three months.”