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Whitestone resident launches Christmas toy drive for families in need

Photo courtesy of Arianna Sorrento

Whitestone resident Arianna Sorrento is bringing a smile to children’s faces this holiday season through her Christmas Toy Drive, Operation: Give Back. 

Sorrento has partnered with the We Love Whitestone Civic Association to establish several drop-off locations within the community and in Long Island City and Brooklyn. 

Bags of donated toys. Courtesy of Arianna Sorrento

When Sorrento was furloughed from her job in April amid the COVID-19 pandemic, she wanted to give back to the community, she said.

“Once the weather got colder and time went by, I realized there’s a lot more people suffering than I am right now, especially with COVID and everything else happening in life,” Sorrento said. “I just wanted to use the time that I had off to give back to people who really need it during this time of the year.”

Arianna Sorrento with a cart filled of donated toys.

Sorrento had started the toy drive on Dec. 1. To date, she has collected an estimated total of 2,000 toys exceeding her goal of 500 toys. According to Sorrento, she had created a GoFundMe campaign, raising under $1,600 from donations by close family and friends. The funds were then used to purchase the toys. 

“I never thought that it would become this big,” Sorrento said. “I’m so grateful and thankful for the people in the communities who wanted to help me help others, and bring a smile to so many children this year. It’s really incredible with the amount of toys I’ve gotten.”

Courtesy of Arianna Sorrento

With so many bags of toys, Sorrento, along with friends and family, made deliveries to several locations, including St. Margaret Mary Church, Our Lady of Sorrows Church, Ronald McDonald House, Little Flowers Orphanage, Bridge to Life Foundation, Corona Ambulatory Corp. and Astoria Houses. 

(From l. to r.) Arianna (third from left) with her family.

Since St. Mary’s Children’s Hospital isn’t accepting physical donations this year due to COVID-19, they provided Sorrento with an Amazon registry link that was posted on the We Love Whitestone page, where people can buy a toy and send it directly to the hospital.

“I want to thank everyone who donated,” Sorrento said. “The turnout is really incredible and I would like to do it again next year.” 

Alfredo Centola, president of the We Love Whitestone Civic Association, said they were proud to be part of the amazing toy drive along with its merchant members.

“Once again another young member of our community has stepped up to give back. Thank you Whitestone and our surrounding communities for making this an incredibly successful toy drive,” Centola said. “A huge thank you to all the local businesses listed on the flyer for donating toys, time and space and serving as drop-off locations. Thank you, Arianna for getting up, getting out and getting involved.”

Donations to the toy drive will be accepted until Sunday, Dec. 20. 

New and unwrapped children’s toys for infants to 18-year-olds can be dropped off at the following locations:

  • Harpell Pharmacy – 150th Street and 14th Avenue
  • Exxon Gas Station – Clintonville and Service Road 
  • Bagel Parlor – 14-37 150th St. across from the Post Office 
  • Whitepointe Cleaners – 132-07 14th Ave., Whitepointe Shopping Center 
  • Centro Pizza Bar and Italian Kitchen – 47-23 Vernon Blvd., Long Island City 
  • Fabio’s Pizzeria in Brooklyn – 635 Meeker Ave., Brooklyn 

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