Driving an Idea Home for the Holidays

Long Beach natives join forces to hold post-Sandy toy drive at Ice Arena.

photo provided by L.B. Holiday Toy Drive
photo provided by L.B. Holiday Toy Drive
Story by Joley Welkowitz

As the holidays approached this year, Long Beach natives Gabby Orellana and Vaneza Cardona, both in their 20's, could not help but think of all the children affected by Hurricane Sandy. The two young Long Beach women decided they wanted to help and got an idea.

They came up with a toy drive, called L.B. Holiday Toy Drive, which they will hold at the Long Beach Ice Arena, on West Bay Drive at Magnolia Boulevard, from 12 to 4 p.m. Dec. 15. They are collecting new unwrapped toys that can be dropped off at various locations. A note will accompany each present made by children throughout the New York area.

“It started with my living room and then we made a Facebook page for the toy drive, and ran with it,” said Orellana, who now lives in Lynbrook. “Before we knew it, there were people calling from all over the place asking if they could donate.”

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A teacher from Scarsdale Middle School came across the toy drive’s Facebook page and decided to turn it into a school project. “Every day they call us to say how the pile of toys is growing and have been sending us pictures,” Orellana said.

Orellana and Cardona contacted the Long Beach School District and discovered that there are about 1,500 students in Long Beach’s schools that are still at the age that they play with toys, and they started asking for more donations.

The two women were not the only ones with their idea. Mandy Wolk Rofe of North Bellmore started her own toy drive and a Facebook page to go along with it. Orellana and Cardona used Facebook to get in touch with Rofe and decided to combine the two events.

Meanwhile, many local businesses and organizations are collaborating to make this event bigger and better. Orellana said the local community’s support of the toy drive has been incredible. The New York StateTrooper Corps Association, for example, is donating about $1,500 worth of toys and providing entertainment. They will have people dressed as superheroes and Santa Claus at the Ice Arena on Saturday. 

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The women asked local businesses if they would put a small flyer in the window along with a donation box in their stores announcing their event. The Long Beach PTA printed out flyers in both English and Spanish and distributed them to the students to bring to their families. A store in Oceanside, 24 Hour Bagel, took the promotion a step further, decorating the donation box and blowing up the flyer to poster-size to make it more noticeable.

The bagel store is one of the event’s biggest sponsors, which include the Long Beach Latino Civic Association, HR Towing in Oceanside and No Limit Towing & Recovery in Island Park, Mio Posto in Hicksville, and Chardonas Locksmith & Integrated Systems is located in Oceanside, Chardona'sfamily business, where most of the donations are being stored.

Many have contacted the women about volunteering at the event. There will be a sign up sheet posted on the L.B. Holiday Toy Drive Facebook page or on the Long Beach Foundation Facebook Page, starting either Wednesday or Thursday, and the first 300 people to sign up can volunteer.

Since they event takes place on Saturday, the final day of Hanukkah, the women will go around to different temples in Long Beach on Sunday to distribute presents for children whose families could not attend due to religious observance. They will also take a number of toys to the Martin Luther King Center’s toy drive, which will be held Dec. 23.

“We are young and motivated, we will not stop here, there is a purpose behind everything, and we definitely want to make this an annual event,” Orellana said.

New and unwrapped toys can be dropped off at the following locations by Thursday at 5 p.m. Toys for children of all ages will be accepted, but they are in extra need of toys for children aged 1 to 3 years of age and 7-11 years of age.

Long Beach:
Ooh LaLa Boutique, 134 E. Park Ave.;
Smoke Shop, 171 E. Park Ave.;

Island Park:

Chardonas Locksmith & Integrated Systems, 3942 Long Beach Rd;


Promowear4u, 2782 Long Beach Rd.;

Pizzaiola, 3191 Long Beach Rd.;

24 Hour Bagel, 3452 Long Beach Rd.;


Vincent’s Pizzeria, 14 Atlantic Ave.;


JR Meat Market, 20 W. Merrick Rd.;

Valley Stream:

Klutch Boutique, 118 North Central Ave;

Friends of Bridge Inc., 5 Pflug Pl.


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