Kids in need receive gifts from UES Mutual Aid's holiday 'toy store'/Meryl Jacobs for Upper East Site
Kids in need receive gifts from UES Mutual Aid's holiday 'toy store'/Meryl Jacobs for Upper East Site

More than 100 Kids in Need Get Toys for Christmas Thanks to Generous Upper East Siders

MANHATTAN – Small groups of families began arriving at 11:00 am. First a few, then more began trickling in. They were tentative. Curious. It had been a long, tough slog for many of these families through two years of struggling to make ends meet during the pandemic. Now, it’s the Saturday before Christmas, and they found themselves at UES Mutual Aid Network’s free holiday ‘toy store.’

UES Mutual Aid Networks welcomes families to its free holiday 'toy store'/Meryl Jacobs for Upper East Site
UES Mutual Aid Networks welcomes families to its free holiday ‘toy store’/Meryl Jacobs for Upper East Site

In they came through the door of the Church of the Holy Trinity on East 88th Street, between Second and Third Avenues— parents with young children, four to nine years old, making their way from one table to the next in the large, bright vestibule. 

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Children shyly sifted through stacks of 175 brand-new toys donated by generous fellow New Yorkers, one young girl was unsure of which toy to choose— her mother bent down and gently showed her a couple of toys she might like. 

Sesame Street Singing Elmo available at UES Mutual Aid 'toy store'/Meryl Jacobs for Upper East Site
Sesame Street Singing Elmo available at UES Mutual Aid ‘toy store’/Meryl Jacobs for Upper East Site

Behind them another mother waited with her two eager and excited children. 

Each family patiently lined up, and slowly made their way around the tables where they would stop to look at the toys, picking up one here or there, trying to decide which one to take home. 

Girl picks out toy from the free 'toy store'/Meryl Jacobs for Upper East Site
Girl picks out toy from the free ‘toy store’/Meryl Jacobs for Upper East Site

The high-quality toys donated to ‘toy store’ included games like Operation, Jenga and Candyland, as well as super-popular dolls like Sesame Street’s Singing Elmo.

Emanuel, one of the parents, looked relieved and satisfied. 

“It’s a wonderful experience,” the young father told us.

Candyland games available at UES Mutual Aid 'toy store'/Meryl Jacobs for Upper East Site
Candyland games available at UES Mutual Aid ‘toy store’/Meryl Jacobs for Upper East Site

“It gives the kids something to do and it lets them know that there are places out here around Christmas time that do provide things for kids that some people can’t afford.” 

At the church entrance, families were greeted by a tall, friendly young man, Patrick Bobilin, one of the organizers of the event

Families enjoy refreshments at UES Mutual Aid's 'toy store'/Meryl Jacobs for Upper East Site
Families enjoy refreshments at UES Mutual Aid’s ‘toy store’/Meryl Jacobs for Upper East Site

Donning a Santa hat, Patrick stood at the door, and cheerfully welcomed everyone, explaining how UES Mutual Aid Network’s holiday ‘toy store’ worked.

When the ‘toy store’ opened its doors on Saturday morning, the joy in the air was palpable—along with stacks of shiny toys, there was also table with refreshments for all, served by friendly volunteers.

Families choose toys and enjoy refreshments at the Church of the Holy Trinity/Meryl Jacobs for Upper East Site
Families choose toys and enjoy refreshments at the Church of the Holy Trinity/Meryl Jacobs for Upper East Site

As Bobilin explains it, “You empower people by giving everyone a little bit of something to do to feel attached to the community.” 

And when the community comes together as they did today, it is a win-win for all, he says. 

UES Mutual Aid Network poses with toys before Saturday's giveaway/Meryl Jacobs for Upper East Site
UES Mutual Aid Network poses with toys before Saturday’s giveaway/Meryl Jacobs for Upper East Site

“Now, more than ever, people need to know that there are people out there to support them,” event organizer Andy Llerena told Upper East Site, adding that neighbors need to know “there’s a network of neighbors out there who care about each other.”

At the end of the day, one hundred and twenty five happy children had taken home toys from UES Mutual Aid Network’s first ever holiday ’toy’ store— the rest were donated to a shelter for families escaping domestic violence.

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