As the holiday season in New York is in full swing, I met a seven year-old girl named Sydney. Sydney lived in one of New York's family shelters with her mom and younger sister. As is the case with many homeless families, her mom lost her job, fell behind on rent, and was evicted from their Queens apartment. Sydney and her younger sister had to gather what they could fit in one small suitcase before they headed to the lone shelter intake center for homeless families in the Bronx.
They waited for hours before they were told where they could stay – in a Brooklyn shelter, miles away from their old apartment. Sydney felt alone and scared in her new surroundings. She missed her neighborhood. She missed her things – the things that made her feel safe and at home. Her suitcase didn’t have space for any of her toys. Dolls, games, and even her old teddy bear were left behind.
16,000 girls and boys are living in New York homeless shelters, and unfortunately, Sydney's experience is all too common. Kids bear some of the greatest burdens of homelessness. Their lives are completely uprooted. They may get placed in a shelter, only to find out in a few months they will have to move to a new one. This means new schools, new friends, and packing up and once more deciding what stays and what goes. Toys – the things that remind them most that they are kids – are commonly left behind.
Last year, like so many other children, Sydney wrote a letter to Santa. She waited excitedly for him to bring her a new doll, but he never did. She was heart broken.
For the last 14 years, the Coalition for the Homeless has hosted a Holiday Toy Drive and Kids Party. Each year, we collect hundreds of toys which we distribute to kids in shelters who most need them. This year, we are increasing our goal to over 1,000 gifts!
Our toy drive will culminate in a Holiday Carnival co-hosted by the United Federation of Teachers for 200 girls and boys living in New York shelters. The kids will gather together for a carnival games and entertainment, festive holiday lunch, and a visit from Santa. Each girl and boy will walk away with present and extra goodies – as well as a renewed sense of the fun it is to just be a kid.
Help us spread a little joy to children like Sydney this holiday season!blog comments powered by Disqus