Easing the Holiday Stress, One Toy at a Time

In the East Hampton High School cafeteria on Monday, members of the school’s Key Club sorted some 1,000 toys collected for local children in need by the Kiwanis Club of East Hampton Toys for Tots program. Morgan McGivern

At the Whalebone apartment complex in East Hampton, January is always the “hardest month for collecting rents, because everybody tries to keep up with the Joneses and get presents for their kids,” said Gerry Mooney, manager of the affordable apartment complex. 

For many families all over the town, the extra expenses that come with the holidays can make it tough to make ends meet come the end of this month and beginning of the next. With its Toys for Tots program, now in its 30th year, the Kiwanis Club of East Hampton does its part to ease the stress on parents’ wallets and give children a brighter Christmas. 

“I have 27 single moms here, and it’s a lot on them,” Mr. Mooney said. “If you can save them 50 or 60 bucks, that’s a lot.” 

This year, the Kiwanis Club, with help from East Hampton High School’s Key Club and more than two dozen individuals, organizations, and businesses, collected over 1,000 new unwrapped toys to be distributed to children in need around East Hampton Town. 

Kiwanis worked with organizations like the East Hampton and Springs Food Pantries and the Lions Club, and managers of affordable apartment complexes like Whalebone and the Accabonac Apartments, to identify families with children 12 and under who could use a little extra help on Christmas. Toys were donated at a number of locations across town and taken to the high school, where they were sorted on Monday afternoon for delivery to a number of collection points. The goal is to provide four or five gifts for each child on a list compiled in advance. 

“It’s quite a job,” said Dru Raley of the Springs Food Pantry, who helps put together the list of Springs families who will benefit. The Springs Food Pantry has 80 families a week coming in for food, and about a third of them have children 12 and under. The East Hampton Food Pantry, she said, serves some 300 families a week. 

The rewards for those who lend a hand in this effort are many, but one of the biggest, said Raymond Tirado, a resident manager at the Accabonac Apartments, “is when you see a child with a big smile.” 

“It’s a lot of fun, and it’s great seeing all the different organizations that recognize it’s such a great project,” said Louis Profera, who has overseen the Toys for Tots program for Kiwanis for 18 years. 

On Monday he was at the high school with the organization’s president, Henry Uihlein, as Key Club members sorted toys, matched them with individual families, and bagged them for delivery. The kids, he said, managed to do in two hours after school what it might have taken days to do. Santa’s elves could not have done better.