A Howard Beach woman led a community effort to help the borough’s children smile this past holiday weekend.
In February, 24-year-old Queens native Brianna Ferranti kicked off a spring drive to create holiday baskets for children in need. After issuing a call for donations to her local community, she received enough donations to put together around 160 Easter baskets.
On March 31, the day before Easter, Ferranti and her brother took the baskets to the River Fund’s food assistance center in south Ozone Park, where they handed them out to children from homeless or low-income families.
Her second altruistic undertaking, Ferranti led an “Acts of Kindness Toy Drive” in her community late last year. After getting the word out to local businesses and on social media, more than 300 toys for kids of all ages were sent her way. Ferranti then delivered the toys to the Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park and St. Mary’s Hospital for Children in Bayside.
“I did [the drive] right out of my basement again,” Ferranti said. “I sat there for hours wrapping. I wanted each basket to be absolutely perfect. My whole entire basement was filled up with toys and gifts.”
One of Ferranti’s goals for the spring drive was to get more of the local community involved. A preschool teacher Our Lady of Grace Catholic Academy, Ferranti asked the director of her program for help getting the word out.
The pair sent out a newsletter to the school community calling for donations. Ferranti also brought the experience into the classroom and after-school program, where she worked with students to put together the baskets while explaining the initiative.
A number of neighborhood children and Ferranti’s family and friends also stopped by her house to drop off donations and help wrap. Contributions included games, Lego toys, coloring books, crayons, stuffed animals, egg coloring kits and candy.
The experience handing out Easter baskets at the River Fund center is not one Ferranti will soon forget.
“There were about 900 families lined up outside the door with grocery carts waiting for groceries: vegetables, proteins, water, cleaning supplies,” she said. “And at the end of the line, there I am, standing at the stoop with the Easter Bunny … Most of the kids there were really young — two or three — getting these huge baskets. They were all so happy. It made me emotional.”
For her next initiative, Ferranti is thinking of organizing a community yard sale, where locals can donate unneeded household items and families in need can stop by and take them home for free. She’s also looking into organizing craft or musical events at the borough’s children’s hospitals and community centers.
“I have some pretty kooky ideas,” she said. “I might branch out.”