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It’s one of the highlights of the year for so many SWBOCES employees, the day Ivan Smith, a program coordinator with the Coachman Family Center in White Plains arrives to pick up the gifts.
Hundreds of presents, wrapped and unwrapped, from toys to clothing, gift cards, outerwear and accessories are piled high at various locations across our centers. Staff at our Rye Brook and Harrison buildings pack them into bags and roll them on carts out to one of Smith’s Coachman vans for transport.
They mean the world to 100 Westchester families who’ll be able to provide their children - 174 in all - with a real Christmas morning experience.
“Our families, and especially our kids, really appreciate it,” Smith said as staff from SWBOCES' centers for Interscholastic Athletics and Professional Development moved piles of presents out of the building at 450 Mamaroneck Avenue. “It just brings a lot of happiness into what is a stressful time of year, particularly for our families.”
Every SWBOCES employee has a chance to contribute. How many dollars are spent and how many gifts are bought is hard to tabulate. Some people donate gift cards. Some $300 in gift cards were collected at the Berkley Drive Administration Building. Some people donate clothing and basic household necessities. Athletics staff collected items for 30 kids.
Maria McGinty, Coordinator of SWBOCES Homeless Student Program, noted that Director of Athletics Jennifer Simmons personally coordinated donations to clothe 30 homeless children.
Everybody contributes across the organization, says McGinty, who has deep ties with community organizations that serve families and individuals in need.
“They have been incredibly generous with not only time but with money and purchasing things for the kids,” McGinty said. “I am just so appreciative to everybody at SWBOCES because without you guys these kids would really have a lot less.”
The best part, she said, is that it’s not about SWBOCES employees giving presents to kids. Rather, the donated items are distributed to families. On Christmas Day, children will open presents from their parents or guardians.
Dina Roselli and her counterpart at Berkley Drive boast of their shopping prowess, stretching donated money to get the most toys for their dollars. Roselli estimated she oversaw some 120 gift donations. At Berkley Drive, about $1,000 was raised, purchasing 80 to 100 fun learning toys and craft items along with Legos, Disney Princesses, Barbie dolls and more.
McGinty said she was appreciative of her colleagues’ generous support for efforts like this, a back-to-shool backpack drives and a Thanksgiving food drive. Support from across SWBOCES for the Homeless Student Program means so much to her, she said.
“The Christmas season really brings a lot out in everyone,” said McGinty, “and I really appreciate that. It’s been a tremendous success, and I just really want to thank everybody.”