Members of the Whitestone community have mobilized to help make a group of children’s holiday season a little brighter.
The initiative began with a conversation between two Whitestone neighbors: Marco Gomez and Sharon Roberts.
Last year, Roberts, a teacher at P.S. 5/369 in Brooklyn for 20 years, worked together with Gomez, a realtor who stays active in the community, to provide eight of her students with Thanksgiving baskets filled with holiday dinner essentials. When Gomez asked Roberts if she needed baskets again this year, Roberts sadly had to turn the offer down: the eight students were now in homeless shelters and their families would not be able to cook for the holidays.
However, Roberts had another request: if Gomez could find a way to provide over 100 students at the school in kindergarten through fifth grade with holiday presents.
“This was no small task I was asking [of him],” Roberts said.
Roberts explained that many of the students in the school district are from foster homes, shelters or are displaced and living in families are dealing with monetary struggles.
Gomez accepted, and the pair got to work.
“We have students on the [autism] spectrum; we have children with emotional disturbance [at the school],” Roberts said. “They all wrote letters to Santa. They have no idea this is coming.”
Gomez and Roberts mobilized, taking to social media to spread the word.
“Marco posted a video [to Facebook] on Friday,” Roberts said. “[In four days] it has gotten over 2,300 views; shared over 400 times. I think I had about 15 to 20 friends requests. It’s been unbelievable.”
“A lot of people have stepped up,” Gomez said. “We’re actually gonna be getting these kids what they’re asking for.”
The duo created a document compiling each student’s wish lists and began accepting donations. In just a few days, dozens of Whitestone residents and businesses have contributed money and toy donations to the fund. Dwarf Giraffe Athletic League, a Whitestone-based sports organization, has agreed to sponsor 10 of the children.
“[The kids] are not asking for Xboxes,” Roberts said. “They’re asking for dolls because they don’t have them. They’re asking for trains because they only get to play with them at school.”
Roberts explained that they are also accepting coat, glove and hat donations, as many of the students lack attire for the colder months.
Gomez, Roberts and volunteers have already begun ordering and purchasing gifts with the donated funds — but they still need more help to make it all happen.
“Any help we can get with delivering or wrapping [gifts] would be appreciated,” Gomez said.
Volunteers are need to help wrap gifts this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Gomez’s office at 75-35 31st Ave. Suite 202 in Jackson Heights. Volunteers are also need to help transport and deliver the gifts to the children at the school at 820 Hancock St. in Brooklyn next week.
Those interested in volunteering should email Gomez at firstname.lastname@example.org or call his cell at 917-734-2012 or his office at 347-846-1200 and ask for Marco Gomez.
“There really is nothing [Gomez] can’t do,” Roberts said. “We appreciate it more than he’ll ever know. And the kids aren’t going to know what hit them next Friday.”