We’re in the throes of the holiday season, and if you’re in the “it’s better to give than to receive” state of mind, you may want to play Santa by adopting a child to fulfill a wish list.
“We actually are desperate for people to help,” says Samantha Morales of Coram, who runs a nonprofit called Branches Long Island.
Beyond donating to a toy drive, here are some ways to fulfill the wishes of specific children:
Branches Long Island: Children’s wishes are posted on the Branches Long Island Community Group Facebook page; people who want to donate ask to join the Facebook group. Then, they chose a child or group of children who the charity connects with through Long Island shelters, says Samantha Morales of Coram, who runs the effort. Participants then purchase the gifts and deliver them, unwrapped, to Morales. This year, the group is helping more than 200 families.
The U.S. Postal Service: The postal service has brought its annual “Operation Santa” effort online, posting letters from children to Santa. For more than 100 years the postal service has been receiving such letters; in 1912 local postal employees and the public started to respond to the letters in a program that eventually became known as Operation Santa and expanded to allowing charitable organizations, corporations and individuals to provide written responses and gifts. This year, individuals can go online can browse letters from 15 cities, including New York, and adopt a letter writer and mail him or her anonymous holiday presents. While the program is meant to help needy families, the post office does not vet or evaluate letters for worthiness, according to the Operation Santa website. To adopt a letter through Dec. 20, visit uspsoperationsanta.com.
Holiday Dreams: Holiday Dreams gets children’s wishes through charity partners on Long Island. To adopt a family, visit holidaydreamsli.com or call 631-714-4822. “Our goal this year is 500 children,” says Rhonda Klch, executive director of Holiday Dreams, which is based out of Mt. Sinai. “Request include lots of slime. For teens, the biggest request right now is some type of AirPods headphones.” Joggers, hoodies, nail polish, bath and body products.
Angels of Long Island: "We are a nonprofit organization that helps families in crisis all during the year," says Debbie Loesch of the Patchogue-based group's outreach department. Donors can either adopt a family anonymously, or, in some cases, be matched with a family whom they can deliver to personally, Loesch says. Call 631-803-6775 or visit angelsoflongisland.com.
Youth Directions and Alternatives: The Ecumenical Lay Council Food Pantry in Northport, based out of the First Presbyterian Church, works with the Youth Directions and Alternatives agency to provide gifts for 55 families; however, all their families have been adopted already this year. “We start the process in October,” says the agency’s Michell Burnham. For more information, visit ydaonline.org.
Local elementary schools: Check with your local elementary schools, which may coordinate gift donations for children they know are in need. Centereach Civic Association, for example, helps to match donors with kids from the Middle Country School District, and has met its "secret Santa" needs for this season, says Diane Caudullo, president of the association.