The Department of Social Services(DSS) has officially begun their 7th Annual Toy and Clothing Drive in preparation for the holiday season. It will run through Dec. 19, collecting various gifts for children of all ages in Rockland County.
While DSS cannot directly give children holiday gifts, Commissioner Joan Silvestri works hard to make sure that every child in Rockland County receives a present.
“It’s just doing the right thing. Here in government, we can only do so much,” shared Silvestri. “We have to just meet the basic minimum needs of families that are facing tough times and that’s the only thing we can use government money for, but when we’re able to connect people and the community with those people in need, it’s very gratifying. It’s gratifying for those that give as well as for those that receive.”
Silvestri shared that DSS makes sure to keep the magic of the holidays alive. Workers from DSS hide the gifts from the kids and sneak them to the parents, allowing them to give the kids their gifts themselves or even tell them that Santa brought them. Courtney DeStaso, Special Assistant to the Commissioner, shared that this is a big part of what makes her job so fulfilling.
“It just keeps the happiness and the smiles on the children’s faces. It’s rewarding in the end. I always love going [to the] annual holiday party… and seeing the children’s excitement and their happiness,” said DeStaso. “They don’t know the behind the scenes roles of what’s going on, where [the gifts] came from. And that’s just the best part.”
Silvestri finds that the event is gratifying because of the connections made with the families.
“We’re able to connect one-on-one with families and children that are in need. The holiday season is extraordinarily difficult for these children and we firmly believe here that no child during this season should go without getting something.”
The Toy and Clothing Drive also helps families that are in need by allowing them to focus on other important expenses.
“It’s not only for the kids, it’s for the parents in a lot of ways. What parent doesn’t wanna be able to give to their children around the holidays,” said Silvestri. “We’re able to [help them do that] so that they feel a little less pressure. It feels a little better during the holiday season to be able to put something out for their children.”
Silvestri also shared that local businesses have donated gift cards in the past. This allows teenagers, who aren’t often interested in the toys that are usually donated in toy drives, to get something as well. The Toy and Clothing Drive has been a success ever since it was started, bringing hope and joy for the holidays.
“I have been so overwhelmed over the last seven years with the generosity of the people from Rockland County as well as corporations that come time and time again with toys for our children,” said Silvestri. “Each year we’ve been able to expand more. It’s a sad time in many ways for the holidays when people are in need, but it’s also the
spirit of the holidays that comes through. People are very generous. They really are. I can’t say enough about them.”