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Long Island

For a last-minute toy drive donation, consider a gift card

John Theissen, founder of the John Theissen Children's

John Theissen, founder of the John Theissen Children's Foundation, said the organization still needs gift cards for its annual toy drive. His daughter Hannah Theissen, 9, volunteers at the foundation office on Monday, Dec. 19, 2016. Credit: John Theissen

As with last-minute presents for friends and family members, gift cards can also be the right choice for those wanting to lend a hand to area toy drives.

Local organizations say donating gift cards is a quick and easy way to help families and children in need before toy and gift drives wrap up this holiday season.

Although the John Theissen Children’s Foundation so far has already passed along more than 60,000 gifts — many distributed through hospitals and social service agencies — founder John Theissen said the foundation still needs monetary gift cards.

His and some other toy drives continue to collect items right through the end of this week.

While new, unwrapped gifts continue to be welcome, those gift cards — from the likes of Walmart and Target — are especially “great for teenagers,” he said, giving them the chance to make their own choices.

His organization, now holding its 25th annual holiday toy drive, collects items for infants to 17-year-olds, with a special eye to families who may be affected by illness or are undergoing financial hardship. As his phone and fax machine continue to get a workout with a steady stream of new requests, donations will be accepted through 2 p.m. Saturday at the foundation office in Wantagh, he said.

“It’s crazy, but it’s good crazy,” he said of his seven-day-a-week, 15-hour days.

The deadline to donate new, unwrapped toys has come and gone for Long Island Head Start, headquartered in Patchogue, said Carol Burnett, community outreach training manager. Parents already have picked up items, ranging from books to puppets to Barbie dolls.

However, families in need may not be cognizant of such deadlines, with calls continuing to come in, she said.

Gift cards at any time can be “an easy choice” as a donation for those who are strapped for time to shop or for ideas of what to buy. They would be an “ideal” item for drop-off through Thursday at the Patchogue office, she said, but first call 631-758-5200, ext. 140, for times.

The Hicksville Boys and Girls Club welcomes gift cards, too, said Harvey Harding, Jr., program director, with an eye to the club’s annual holiday dinner Friday evening. About 40 club members, ranging in age from 12 to 18, are expected to attend, he said.

The club is grateful to be a recipient of gifts from Theissen’s organization, he said, but a few gift cards in hand can also be helpful, “to ensure we can cater to the whole youth population of our members.”

Sporting goods store gift cards would be appreciated, along with cards from the hat store Lids, Footlocker and Forever 21, for increasingly fashion-conscious members. Gift certificates to movie theaters can also be a good choice, he said.

Donations can be made from noon to 6 p.m. through Friday at the Hicksville Boys and Girls Club.

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