By Emily Drooby
Months after Christmas, the holiday cheer continued in Astoria, Queens and children picked out free toys.
“I’m thankful that they’re doing this,” said Stephany Roldan, whose two sons were involved, “They get happy when I tell them, ‘Do you want to go get some toys today?’ They’re actually excited about it.”
There were choices galore, brought to Our Lady of Mount Carmel’s food pantry by the NYPD. Cindy Paulino of the 114th Precinct helped make it happen.
“The smiles on their faces really means a lot,” she told Currents News.
Thanks to a big donor facilitated by Roman Empire Logistics, her precinct collected an unprecedented number of toys in December. After multiple distributions, they still had plenty of toys left. So they teamed up with the church’s pastor, Monsignor Sean Ogle.
“These are families that don’t have a lot, it was such a happy sort of surprise Christmas for them,” he explained.
The police officers distributed the toys during the church’s new weekly food pantry, which has an impressive origin story itself.
For over 30 years there has been a popular pantry at the church they merged with, St Margaret Mary, which is also in Astoria, Queens.
However, when the need for help grew because of the pandemic, parishioners decided they wanted to help. Members of the very active Hispanic community at Our Lady of Mount Carmel opened this second pantry, finding and collecting the food themselves. They are all volunteers, helping about an extra 100 families a week.
“Just seeing them smile makes you happy because some people didn’t have Christmas because of the situation, some people don’t have jobs to buy food ,let alone presents,” said Aranza Rubi Sanchez, one of their younger volunteers.
The toys are adding a bit of joy after a year plagued by job loss, poverty and school closures.
It’s also a way to build a relationship between the youngest and the “finest” in the neighborhood.
“I think it helps them to see that we are more human than they probably think, behind uniform, and it helps them to not be afraid to talk to us and like I said, build a relationship,” said Cindy.
The toy drive at Our Lady of Mount Carmel has been going on for three weeks, and they plan to continue until all the toys are gone.