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El Centro Hispano Collects Toys for 500 Kids

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- After El Centro Hispano opened in January 1974, families began gathering every winter to conjointly honor the Three Kings Day tradition celebrated in many Latin American countries and mark the anniversary of the community center.

The first winter, Isabel Villar, the founder and executive director of El Centro Hispano, said she and other staff rushed to Woolworth on Dec. 26 to buy discounted toys for the 70 or 80 kids who needed holiday presents.

“At first it was hard because nobody knew about us in the community. The difference was that 32 years ago you could buy a doll for 99 cents,” said Villar. “Now what we do is we ask the community to help us because we have 500 kids."

El Centro Hispano has already received 200 toys that the 100 Hispanic Women organization collected at its holiday party in New Rochelle. The non-profit organization still seeks enough to toys to give approximately 500 children.

“It makes a big difference. These kids are newcomers to the county and like me, when I came to the country, I didn’t have presents during the holidays. It’s great to see their faces, they are so grateful when the get the toys,” said Villar. “We celebrated Three Kings Day in Cuba until Fidel Castro, and it’s good for others to be able to continue that tradition here.”

El Centro Hispano has invited the community to Saint Bernard’s Roman Catholic Church to watch three kings, who traditions say followed a star towards Bethelhem in time for Jesus Christ’s birth, lead children out of the sanctuary and into the church gym. After mass concludes on Jan. 8, the three kings will then pass out gifts.

Beginning Dec. 5, unwrapped, new toys appropriate for newborns to those under 15 can be dropped off at the 346 S. Lexington Ave. center between the hours of noon and 7 p.m. Donations for buying new toys can also be delivered to El Centro Hispano.

Have you gone to El Centro Hispano’s past Three Kings Day festivals? Join the conversation below.

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