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LI Charities forced to delay toy handouts

For some Long Island charities, holiday parties are

For some Long Island charities, holiday parties are a no-bow until more toy donations come in (2009) Photo Credit: Newsday / Rebecca Cooney

Several Long Island charities had hoped Santa's helpers would visit their toy drives early this year.

Instead, with just days to go before Christmas, some nonprofits are still waiting for the last-minute donations to their toy drives that inevitably come in right before the big day.

These to-the-wire donations, while welcome, cause anxiety among charity workers and the families that rely on the toys, said Cynthia Sucich, spokeswoman for the Interfaith Nutrition Network in Hempstead.

The INN, which gathered toys for 1,900 needy Long Island children, took the unusual step this year of holding off distributing gifts from its toy drives until Tuesday - four days before Christmas.

The nonprofit usually starts well in advance of the holiday, but decided to wait to take advantage of toy donations right before the holiday, Sucich said. The organization had avoided waiting until Christmas week "because it brings too much anxiety to our guests," she said.

At Pronto of Long Island in Bay Shore, toy distribution began last week but continues in earnest, in part because of last-minute donations, said facilities manager Michael McElroy.

Two weeks before Christmas, Pronto had few toys to give out to the 500 families that registered to receive gifts, McElroy said.

John Theissen, who runs the John Theissen Children's Foundation in Wantagh, said he's besieged by worried parents and other nonprofits wondering when they'll be able to get holiday gifts from its toy drive.

"The families that aren't sure they're going to be able to help out their kids for the holiday season - it puts so much of a stress on them," he said.

Melissa Doktofsky, president and founder of Toys of Hope in Huntington Station, said procrastination may not be the reason for fewer toys being donated thus far.

"I think people are definitely waiting, but there's a good chance that some people just can't give this year," she said.

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