SOUTHERN BROOKLYN — Three of Brooklyn’s most esteemed organizations, the Dyker Heights Civic Association, the 68th Precinct Community Council and the Bay Ridge Community Council are continuing their tradition of giving back to the community.
This year, the groups celebrated the season by collecting holiday gifts for two worthy causes — toys for Reaching-Out Community Services, which runs a food pantry on New Utrecht Avenue and organizes a pair of holiday events for families in need, and gift cards for children of the troops at Fort Hamilton Army Base.
The three organizations — which had held a community-wide toy drive over the prior several weeks — gathered at Redeemer St. John’s Lutheran Church, 939 83rd St., on Tues., Dec. 10 for a night of fun and merriment.
The evening opened with seasonal songs performed by the St. Ephrem children’s choir under the direction of Thomas Marchesiello, followed by the Guild for Exceptional Children chorus with former Guild Executive Director and CEO Paul Cassone accompanying the singers on guitar.
Dyker Civic Association President Fran Vella-Marrone welcomed guests and thanked Redeemer St. John Pastor Khader Khalilia for his continued support. She also presented Marchesiello with a special recognition for his work as music director at St Ephrem Church.
“We appreciate being asked to come here to perform for the community,” Marchesiello told this paper. The children weren’t really sure what a community council or civic association is all about so this explained so much and they got to see a little of it themselves. It’s just a great experience for them,” he added.
Vella-Marrone was especially pleased with the turnout this year. “We’re very happy to have all the groups together to celebrate on one date at one location for the entire community of Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights,” said Vella-Marrone.
“What we do every year is collect toys for Reaching Out Community Services and this year we’re also adding something more to it. Whereas we’ve given toys in the past to Fort Hamilton Army Base, this year we asked them what they really need and they said gift cards for their older children and the families of the soldiers,” she added.
Vella-Marrone introduced Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis who has been a long-time supporter of Dyker Civic.
Malliotakis wished everyone a happy holiday and said that the goal was to continue to work together as a community. “I want to thank all the work that the Dyker Heights Civic Association does and all of you that advocate and speak up,” said Malliotakis. “It helps us advocate for you. It’s your voices that gives us the momentum to be able to fight for this community.”
Also attending the event were Assemblymember Peter Abbate and New York State Conservative Party Chair Jerry Kassar.
David Ryan, president of the 68th Precinct Community Council, introduced Captain John Doesberg, the new 68th Precinct executive officer who serves as second in command.
Bay Ridge Community Council President Ralph Succar talked about his organization’s involvement. “The Bay Ridge Community Council is a group of volunteers. Volunteering in this community goes back many, many years,” explained Succar.
On behalf of the BRCC, Succar presented 40 $25 gift cards to Amanda Hay-Caroffino, director of public affairs for the U.S. Army Garrison Fort Hamilton, to be given to service member families. Jacqueline Gunter, assistant manager at Ridgewood Savings Bank, gave a grateful Hays-Caroffino additional gift cards donated by the bank.
Thomas Neve, the founder and executive director of Reaching-Out, also expressed his appreciation. “We’ve been doing this for the past 29 years, helping families going through troubled times,” explained Neve. “We do a Christmas outreach for the children, helping get toys to 800 kids in need. We need more sponsors and we ask for your continued support and we are grateful for what you’ve done,” he added.