Bay Ridge

Christmas gift card collection helps foster kids

November 28, 2017 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Sara Steinweiss, a former high school teacher, is still working to improve the lives of teenagers. Photo courtesy of Steinweiss

A Bay Ridge business owner is hoping to make the holidays brighter for kids in foster care by orchestrating a gift card drive to ensure that the youngsters will have something under the Christmas tree this year. 

Sara Steinweiss, owner of Conflict Resolutions Systems LLC., a firm at 455 Bay Ridge Parkway that provides mediation services to schools, work places and private clients, has launched her Seventh Annual Gift Card Drive.

Steinweiss is asking residents to donate gift cards from stores like Dunkin Donuts, CVS, Walgreens, Old Navy, Target, Payless Shoes, Starbucks, The Gap and Best Buy, as well as gift cards from iTunes, Visa or American Express. She is requesting that donors send the gift cards to her at her post office box number. Steinweiss plans to deliver the gift cards to MercyFirst, a nonprofit organization that runs a home for youngsters who have not yet been placed with foster parents. 

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Steinweiss announced her gift card drive on the eve of Giving Tuesday, the day set aside for Americans to give to charity. 

The previous holiday gift card drives have been highly successful, according to Steinweiss. 

“The first year, we collected between $800 and $900 in gift cards and it has grown substantially in the years since. Over the six years we’ve been doing this, we’ve collected about $10,000 in gift cards. Last year, one company sent me $1,000 worth of gift cards. The employees all bought gift cards instead of holding a Kris Kringle gift-giving party for each other,” she told the Brooklyn Eagle on Monday.

In an email to Brooklyn civic and business leaders to announce this year’s holiday gift card drive, Steinweiss, a former high school teacher, explained her reasons for doing it. The effort is aimed specifically at teenagers, she wrote.

“During this time of year there are so many toy drives for children and adopting of families through community services. And all of that is wonderful and needed. Unfortunately, there is a group that often gets left out and those are the teenagers in foster care. Toy drives do not apply to these children and many are not placed with families and are in group homes,” she explained.


Many of the MercyFirst foster teens are currently attending schools in Bay Ridge and other Southwest Brooklyn neighborhoods, Steinweiss said. 

Steinweiss was inspired by her past as an educator when she originally came up with the idea for the gift card drive.

“I had worked with teenagers or so many years when I was a teacher. I realized that during the holidays, the focus of charity organizations is always on small children. Teenagers are often forgotten. I called up MercyFirst and asked them how many teenagers they had in their foster care program. They said they had 200. My years of teaching in high school taught me what teenagers like. They like gift cards. So I decided to do a gift card drive and I asked people to donate,” Steinweiss told the Eagle.

A letter she received from MercyFirst representatives thanking her for the gift card drive she conducted last year deeply touched her, she said.

It also made her determined to continue the effort. “Once again I made a commitment to the foster home to get as many gift cards as possible,” she wrote in her email.

Steinweiss, who taught at New Utrecht High School in Bensonhurst for many years, founded Conflict Resolution Systems LLC last year with a goal toward helping business owners, educators and families address stressful situations and achieve positive results.

Steinweiss offers workshops and training techniques designed to fit a client’s particular situation, including lectures, group activities, role playing, team-building activities and individual instruction.

Anyone interested in taking part in the holiday gift card drive can mail gift cards to Sara Steinweiss, P.O. Box 40229, Brooklyn, New York, 11204.

All of the gift cards must be in the post office box by Dec. 10.


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