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Holiday Spirit Prevails in Long Beach

Children's holiday parties, toy drives go on despite Sandy, fires.

Toys collected by the Correction Officers Benevolent Association in East Meadow.
Toys collected by the Correction Officers Benevolent Association in East Meadow.
Story by Jeff Lipton

Not even a superstorm could dampen the holiday spirit enjoyed by the children in Long Beach.

Acting like a modern-day Grinch, Hurricane Sandy arrived within striking distance of Christmas and tried to steal the holiday from Long Beach children and their families.

On top of that, a devastating fire at the Knights of Columbus headquarters in Long Beach, where the annual children’s Christmas party was scheduled to be held, all but dashed hopes for a normal holiday celebration for the kids.

However, a massive toy drive was undertaken and not one but two Christmas parties will be held for Long Beach kids.

The blaze at the Long Beach Knights of Columbus Msgr. Cass 2626, at 970 West Beech St., on Dec. 10, sent the Knights scrambling for an alternative location for the annual party.

The party will now be held on Sunday, Dec. 23, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at St. Ignatius gymnasium on West Broadway and New York Avenue. Ronald Bowne, the grand knight, said his list of guests includes at least 75 children, who will be given about 400 toys that were donated.

“For the last two and a half months, these residents have been stressing and it will be nice just to see a smile on the children’s faces, which will make it all worthwhile,” said Browne.  

In addition, the Nassau County Sheriff’s Correction Officers Benevolent Association (COBA) organized a week-long toy drive for Long Beach kids impacted by Sandy, collecting more than 500 toys at its headquarters in East Meadow. COBA ramped up its efforts after learning about the devastating fire at the Knights of Columbus.

“We thought that helping the kids in the community of Long Beach was a great idea,” said Greg Lanning, a COBA delegate. “But after the fire happened, we said, ‘Wow, now what?”

The toys will be distributed during an invitation-only party for the children at the Father Joseph O’Connell Council of the Knights of Columbus, at 27 Kenneth Place in Oceanside, on Saturday, Dec. 22, from 12 noon to 4 p.m.

About 100 children will attend that party, said Lanning, who added that it will include a magician, a clown, a DJ and, of course, Santa. He added that about 300 new winter coats that were donated will also be distributed.

“At the end of the day, it’s all about cheering things up a little bit for the children and their families,” said Lanning. “It’s about people stepping up.”

Lanning said COBA heard that the Long Beach Knights were using their lodge as a distribution point for Sandy victims in need of food and clothing.

“What do you do when the place that helps those in need is now in need themselves?” said Lanning. “It was a no-brainer. We’ve got to be there for them. It was not a big deal. We do the toy drive anyway. We just had to kick it up a little.”

He credits Brielle Hills of Oceanside, who helps out with the American Red Cross, for getting donations and spearheading the toy drive and the Oceanside party’s activities.

"I see these kids and my heart bleeds for them,” said Hills, who grew up in Long Beach. “With the Red Cross, I’ve just seen about everything from the hurricane. “I want to put a smile on every child’s face,” she added. “I want them to be happy and joyful. I want this to be a moment they will never forget.”

Meanwhile, Browne said the burned-out building in Long Beach will be razed and a new one built in its place, where the Knights plan to hold next year’s Christmas party.
Eddie December 21, 2012 at 04:48 PM
This story is obviously all about Christmas parties featured by Christian groups, but Patch's headline only specifies "Holiday Spirit"? Does AOL forbid Parch headlines from mentioning "Christmas"?
Tonto Hertzberg December 25, 2012 at 12:39 AM
No wonder he gave away 900 tickets............the total viewership will probably top out at 910 after this review. http://www.nypost.com/p/entertainment/movies/billy_crystal_parental_guidance_JgR3BLWmLqiHLFkKkTpLOO

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