SHEEPSHEAD BAY – The memory of a former city councilmember who devoted much of his political career to helping at-risk youth was the driving force behind a Toys for Tots effort led by the 41st Assembly District Democrats Club this holiday season.
Lew Fidler died on May 5 at the age of 62. He served on the City Council from 2002 to 2013.
Brad Reid and Lori Maslow, the Democratic district leaders of the 41st Assembly District, spearheaded the club’s 18th Annual Toys for Tots drive in tribute to Fidler. The 41st A.D., represented by Democrat Helene Weinstein, takes in all or parts of several Brooklyn neighborhoods, including Sheepshead Bay, Flatlands, East Flatbush, Midwood and Canarsie.
Nearly 3,000 toys were collected and brought to the club’s headquarters on Dec. 19 to be loaded onto a large truck and donated to the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves for its Toys for Tots drive.
In the 18 years since the club has been participating in Toys for Tots, members have collected an estimated 78,000 toys for children from underprivileged families, according to club leaders.
This year, members and local elected officials spent time at the toy drop-off celebration remembering Fidler and his efforts to help the less fortunate. It was Fidler who started the local toy drive, and participants were asked to donate toys in his memory.
During his time on the council, Fidler served as chairperson of the Committee on Youth Services and successfully fought to have funding for programs for at-risk youth included in the city budget.
“Every child ought to have unquestioned love and support,” said Reid, quoting the late Fidler.
Robin Fidler, the wife of Lew Fidler, said she was grateful to Reid, Maslow and the club for continuing the tradition her husband started.
“I want to thank Brad, Lori, the entire club and the community for continuing a tradition that helps children in need receive a little joy this holiday season,” Robin Fidler said in a statement. “This is a worthwhile event that Lou took great pride in.”
Maslow said the toy drive was important to the club. “A good deed doesn’t care about your political party. It just requires you to care enough to act,” she said.
Brooklyn Democratic Party Chairperson Frank Seddio and a host of Democratic elected officials from across the borough came to the club to support the toy drive. The guests included New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, Assemblymembers Helene Weinstein and Rodneyse Bichotte and Councilmembers Justin Brannan, Farah Louis and Kalman Yeger.
Williams recalled that Fidler helped him start his career in community service and politics when he appointed him to a seat on the local community board when Fidler was a City Council member.
Approximately 1,000 of the nearly 3,000 toys donated to the Toy for Tots drive were collected by the Russian-speaking community in Southern Brooklyn and brought to the club prior to Dec. 19. The collection was led by Raisa Chernina, executive director of the nonprofit Be Proud Foundation, which has assisted in the toy drive for 11 years.
“Be Proud has been a tremendous partner over the last 11 years. This drive wouldn’t be the same without them,” Weinstein said.