Dozens of children with parents who are currently or previously incarcerated had a chance to forget their worries and receive presents from Santa Claus in Brentwood Saturday.
New Hour for Women and Children of Long Island, a Brentwood-based nonprofit, hosted its fourth annual holiday luncheon, where 25 families came to enjoy a large holiday meal, receive toys and make holiday crafts.
Adeline Rodriguez, 54, of Brentwood, was with her grandchildren, watching as her granddaughter, Destiny, 10, put together a stocking at the craft station. Rodriguez said it has been tough for her family, especially for Destiny, while her mom — Rodriguez' daughter — serves prison time upstate for drug possession.
However, Rodriguez said, the nonprofit’s programs, such as this holiday event and a summer camp, have helped Destiny take her mind off those troubles and let her enjoy childhood.
“There’s a lot of parties and activities, so it’s good to get your mind off things,” Destiny said as she decorated her green holiday stocking.
Rodriguez said Destiny had been looking forward to getting “anything with hair and makeup” from the Saturday event.
The nonprofit, founded in 2014, provides support and services to women and mothers incarcerated in Suffolk County correctional facilities and to their children. Those services include access to housing resources, job readiness programs, and support services during incarceration, among others.
“This holiday season, we’re doing more than we’ve ever done before to support moms and kids who have been justice impacted. I’m so proud of our moms and our kids,” said Serena Liguori, the nonprofit’s executive director. “This is what Christmas is really about.”
Amanda Fleming, 26, of Ronkonkoma, got to watch her children Jaida, 1, and Jonathan, 7, light up in excitement as they met Santa. Jonathan, who was eagerly eyeing robot toys at the event, excitedly said, “Look, it transforms!” as he showed his mother a remote-controlled “Air Hogs” ATV toy that Santa gifted him, while Jaida received a “Dino Explorer” play set.
Fleming, who had previously been in jail as the result of substance abuse issues but has been sober since, said the nonprofit helped her get custody of her son, as well as obtain cosmetics, toiletries, rides and other support, which helped Fleming rebuild her life.
“It’s nice to have that kind of support, just picking up the phone and knowing I have someone to call,” Fleming said. “And they don’t judge me, no matter what I say.”
Jennifer Selvaggi, 49, of Mastic, a mother of six, said she was simply looking forward to spending the day with her youngest children, daughter Daniella, 10, and Justin, 15.
Selvaggi previously served jail time for a DUI offense. Now sober for several years, Selvaggi said the nonprofit helped her regain custody of her youngest children along with employment after she was released.
“The most important thing is these guys,” Selvaggi said as she hugged her daughter. “They’re happy to be together and I’m just happy to have my kids.”