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Santa Gives Winter Coats White Plains Kids

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- This year Santa Claus had an extra helper at the Youth Bureau's annual Holiday Coat Drive thanks to Victoria Salves, 8, who collected and donated 56 hats, gloves and scarves to accompany the winter jackets more than 130 White Plains children received this Saturday.

"Instead of getting presents for myself, I got presents for the children in need," Victoria, a Church Street student, said of her decision to collect donations instead of gifts on Christmas and her birthday.

Erica Chahade, Victoria's mom, said she was proud of her daughter and eager to finally be able to donate the winter gear after unsuccessfully shopping around for charities or organizations in need for nearly a year.

"We asked what she wanted for Christmas and she said, 'I don't know know.' So I said, 'Well if you don't know maybe you should get stuff for other kids,'" Chahade, 37, said of how her daughter's project began last winter. "It was nice to see her put her heart into it. She's enjoying this moment because she's been waiting to have the dream come true."

The Youth Bureau's coat drive began early in the year, according to the organization's executive director, Frank Williams . Williams said White Plains has always been a community that "steps in to fill in whatever gap they can identify during the holidays," including warm clothing.

Kids gathered in front of rows of presents after enjoying a meal provided by Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza . Mayor Thomas Roach had the honor of introducing Santa Claus, who was greeted with a standing ovation. Santa then called each child up by name and delivered a package containing a coat to the kid.

Kathryn Suering, a Tuckahoe resident who brought her granddaughter Janessa Nicole Suering to pick up a present, said the coat drive was a good gift for families.

"It's very nice that they'd do such a thing. It really helps the families," said Suering, while eating with Janessa Nicole, a White Plains student at George Washington.

For the past two years, Webster Banks ' Westchester branches have solicited assistance from customers and neighbors in gathering coats for the drive. Michael Traynor, the manager of the Post Road bank, said he and his co-worker Maria Freburg, who helped organize the bank's collection, do it for the kids.

"It's important to be involved in the community, and the kids are the future. There's no better way to do it, especially when you see the kids smiling,' said Traynor, a New Rochelle resident.

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