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WJCS Hosts Annual Have-a-Heart Gift Drive

WHITE PLAINS,  N.Y. – After nearly two months of organizing, Meryl Lewis, the director of volunteers at Westchester Jewish Community Services (WJCS) said the Have-A-Heart for the Holidays Gift Drive she oversees has collected more than 800 presents for kids in need awaiting social workers from across the county.

“I contact social workers in the very end of October and say, ‘I know it’s early to start thinking about it, but by Nov. 15 I need your list,’” said Lewis, a Hastings resident. “We get: first name, age, sex and what it is they’re asking for.”

The WJCS cannot “100 percent guarantee” that kids and teens get the first thing on their list, however, they try they’re best. This year, Legos, board games and gift cards to various stores were the more popular requests, according to Lewis.

Young mothers and pregnant women enrolled in the White Plains-based WJCS programs will receive an educational toy and onsie pajama suit for their child. This year, Payless Shoes gave the WJCS several $20 off coupons, which the non-profit will be giving to parents as well.

“We do have kids who, if it was not for the generosity of strangers, they would have nothing under the tree,” said Lewis. “I find it very rewarding. It’s a tremendous amount of work and I wouldn’t do it every year if I didn’t.”

This year, Lewis said Amy Federman helped collect 150 gifts for the Have-a-Heart drive by sending an email blast out to the Solomon Schechter Lower School and coordinating presents with requests.

WJCS board member Linda Plattus was also a big help, according to Lewis, who said Plattus threw a party to help collect gifts in her Scarsdale home that attracted 40 guests with 150 toys and approximately $1,800 in gift checks.

Joy Avidan, another WJCS board member, also helped put a dent in the more than 800-gift long list by getting donators on board via an email blast.

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