Santa takes the reins for Operation Christmas Smiles

December 23, 2020 Jaime DeJesus
Santa takes the reins for Operation Christmas Smiles
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Despite a global pandemic, a Bensonhurst food pantry continued its holiday tradition of bringing joy to hundreds of children.

Reaching-Out Community Services held its 15th annual Operation Christmas Smiles event on Saturday outside its headquarters, 7708 New Utrecht Ave., where hundreds of kids lined up to get a toy and meet Santa Claus.

Last year’s event took place at St. Mary Mother of Jesus Church Community Center, but COVID-19 restricts forced the celebration to be moved outside.

Tom Neve and Reaching-Out staff give toys to kids.

“We are so grateful we had the help of so many people from our community, organizations, and friends,” said Tom Neve, founder of Reaching-Out. “Even during a pandemic, we were still able to keep our doors open and keep a program like this going so we can put smiles on children’s faces.”

Members of the Verrazano Rotary Club, who helped sponsor the event, were in attendance.

“It’s a tough year for everyone and I’m sure it’s going to be over soon,” said club member Ralph Succar. “Hopefully next year will be much better. But today, the kids are smiling and it’s all for them.”

Reaching-Out Community Services and Verrazano Rotary Club with toys for children.

Volunteers from the Lighthouse Church also helped out with the event.

Neve said Reaching-Out has seen an increase in the number of people who need food, and while that has been tough on the pantry, it has managed to stay open throughout the year.

“We have rearranged our whole organization, providing a necessary distribution process to help as many families as possible,” he said earlier this year.

The pantry will continue to distribute toys throughout the week to kids who are registered in the program.

Children pose with Mickey Mouse.

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