Bay Ridge business leaders collect toys for service members’ kids
Troops deploying to Afghanistan from Fort Hamilton
Bay Ridge business leaders saluted the men and women of the military by conducting a toy drive for the children of service members stationed at the U.S. Army Garrison at Fort Hamilton so the youngsters can enjoy the holidays even though they are far away from home.
The Merchants of Third Avenue, a group representing more than 300 store owners on the avenue, found a clever way to solicit donations for the toy drive it sponsored. The business group hosted a holiday party at Giacomo’s Restaurant (7902 Third Ave.) on Monday night and asked each of the invited guests to bring a toy.
By the end of the evening, a mountain of toys, everything from dolls to trucks to board games, stood on a table in the restaurant.
Bob Howe, president of the Merchants, and Charles Otey, the group’s executive secretary, presented the toys to Col. Joseph Davidson, the commander of Fort Hamilton. Otey played Santa Claus, disguising himself in a red suit and white beard for the evening. Davidson, who took command of the fort in July, told the assembled party guests that he was overwhelmed by the show of support for the troops.
“I’ve never seen generosity at this level,” he said.
Davidson, who has been in the army for 29 years, also had words of praise for the Bay Ridge community, the neighborhood where the fort is located.
“I’ve been in a lot of places in 29 years of service. I’ve never been to a place where the community outside the gates of the installation treats us not only like your own, but better than your own,” he said.
The toy donation for the military kids could not have come at a better time, and not just because it’s the holiday season, according to Davidson. On Dec. 6, 150 reservists are being deployed to Afghanistan from the fort. “We appreciate your support,” Davidson said.
In his invocation, the Rev. Khader El-Yateem, pastor of Salam Arabic Lutheran Church, asked God to “protect our men and women in uniform.”
The party also gave Howe and the Merchants the opportunity to reflect on 2014.
“Our merchants have really done a great job this year,” Howe said, adding that the Summer Stroll on Third event, sponsored by the Merchants in which a portion of the avenue is closed to vehicular traffic to create a pedestrian mall, was a success.
Four of the neighborhood’s elected officials — state Sen. Marty Golden, Assemblymembers Alec Brook-Krasny and Nicole Malliotakis, and Councilmember Vincent Gentile — came to the party to congratulate the Merchants and to tout the important role a strong business community plays in a neighborhood’s overall economic health.
“You are the epitome of what makes this a great neighborhood,” Gentile told the Merchants.
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