Constant chatter, often turned into screaming, fills the cafeteria.
The kids pace back and forth, engaging in conversations with their friends and families, all while anxiously waiting for their turn. Their number is called. They rejoice.
Waiting for them is Santa Claus, carrying a present in hand.
This is the scene at St. Jerome’s Church in the South Bronx, which hosts Manhattan College’s Lasallian Collegians’ annual Toy Drive.
The Toy Drive brings gifts to the children of St. Jerome’s Church, many of who do not have the luxury of receiving gifts outside of the event.
For Allison Ready, president of Lasallian Collegians, the Toy Drive displays what the group is all about.
“A lot of us come here and don’t even realize what we’re living in, but in actuality there are a lot of problems in the Bronx that a lot of us just close ourselves off to. We’re so privileged to be going here, so what can we do to make their lives better? It’s just a nice way to finally be able to give back to this community that we’re living in,” Ready said.
Lasallian Collegians has held the Toy Drive at St. Jerome’s Church at 230 Alexander Ave. for seven years.
Two years ago, the church was dealt a huge blow, as the Archdiocese of New York announced that St. Jerome Catholic School, located beside the church, would close down due to financial difficulties.
The closing left many underprivileged parents without a school for their kids and in scramble mode.
But these parents and their kids could still count on the Toy Drive, which has become a staple in the community.
“It’s just so sad to see how such a great facility in the South Bronx was just shut down because of a lack of funding,” Brianna DelSanto, in charge of the Toy Drive Committee for Lasallian Collegians, said about St. Jerome’s. “It’s just so sad to see that. But having the Toy Drive there can help that.”
DelSanto, along with the rest of Lasallian Collegians, are responsible for coming up with 300 toys for the event held in the cafeteria of St. Jerome’s Church. Throughout the month of November, they collect gender-neutral toys such as puzzles and board games, as well as receive donations, which they then use to buy gifts.
This year, the Toy Drive at St. Jerome’s Church will be held on Dec. 6, where 300 kids will convene to receive gifts that for many of them might be the only ones they receive for Christmas.
“For the kids it makes them happy,” Sister Julia Suarez, director of programs at St. Jerome’s Church, said. “There are many parents that perhaps probably can’t give them something and it’s an opportunity for them to receive a gift. It’s always beautiful when people keep in mind the community that can’t receive something and that on that day they can get something. … That satisfies me because I say ‘well, despite how tired the kids get and despite how tired we get, it’s worth it seeing the kids happy.’ ”
The Toy Drive will be the first Toy Drive DelSanto and Ready attend, as the two sophomores, who joined Lasallian Collegians last year, have taken on a bigger role in the group this year.
“It’s something that’s like indescribable,” Ready said about what it’s going to feel like to be at the event. “You have to go and be there to see how happy they are. It’s one of those things where it’s something so little. It’s just one day and you can just go and make these kids’ month or year.”
Like Ready, DelSanto can’t wait to bring a smile to the faces of the 300 kids who will be at the event.
“They don’t get to experience that all the time and we did as kids,” DelSanto said. “We don’t know how much it impacts them until you go there and see like why are they so excited over something so little as making a pom-pom snowman, but it makes their whole day.”