After Eileen Pacheco “lost everything” in a May fire that destroyed her Coram home, she warned her children they wouldn’t receive Christmas gifts.
“I told my kids I couldn’t do it this year,” she said. “I didn’t have the funds to get them anything.”
Then she found out about a Hauppauge law firm’s holiday toy giveaway. On Saturday, she not only picked out four toys and games for each of her 11 minor children, ages 4 to 17; she also won a child’s bicycle in an hourly raffle.
“Now they’ll have something to open on Christmas,” said Pacheco, 41, of Bay Shore.
More than 500 children were signed up to receive gifts Saturday in Hauppauge and the day before in Riverhead.
The event, sponsored by the firm Ferro Kuba Mangano Sklyar PC and its Liga de Justicia legal clinic in Brentwood, began with a decision eight years ago to convert a Secret Santa gift exchange into a donation of toys to charity, said Jennifer Covais, executive coordinator of the law firm and organizer of Saturday’s event. Then, five years ago, the firm inaugurated the “toy store,” where parents “shop” in the offices of Spanish-language radio station WBON-FM while their kids are next door at the law offices taking photos with Santa Claus and drinking hot chocolate.
Volunteers accompanied Monica Pacheco — no relation to Eileen Pacheco — as the Brentwood woman, 34, selected gifts for her three boys, ages 3, 4 and 11, including a racing car, a socket building set and an Octonauts character.
“Sometimes with the economic situation you’re in, you don’t have enough money to buy beautiful gifts for your children,” Pacheco said. “With this, they’ll have a better Christmas.”
Manuel Canseco, 37, and Blanca Matamoros, 27, are raising three boys on Canseco’s low-wage job busing tables in a diner. They typically buy inexpensive gifts like puzzles for their kids, but this year, thanks to the “toy store,” their children, ages 10 months, 4 and 6, will each receive four toys and games, including the PAW Patrol rescue dogs the older boys requested for Christmas.
“The kids will be so happy when they see all these toys,” Canseco said. “All children should be happy on Christmas. ”