2011-12-22 / Other News

Fidler’s Dem Club Shatters Old Record In Annual Toys For Tots Collection

By Neil S. Friedman


Mary Salogub listens as Lcpl. Chavarria reads a certificate of appreciation citing her late son John’s contributions to the annual toy drive. 
Photos by Neil S. Friedman Mary Salogub listens as Lcpl. Chavarria reads a certificate of appreciation citing her late son John’s contributions to the annual toy drive. Photos by Neil S. Friedman Donated toys were stacked from floor to ceiling last Thursday evening and took up half the space in City Councilman Lew Fidler’s 41st AD Democratic Club as it gathered thousands of items in its eleventh annual Community First Toy Drive. The event, first held in 2001 when a mere 79 toys were donated, has since grown by leaps and bounds.

In fact, for the sixth straight year, toy drive founder Bryan Lee believes that he and Fidler’s collections have contributed the most donations for the 64-yearold U.S. Marine Corps Reserves nationwide holiday toy collection program for underprivileged children throughout the city. At the end of the hectic evening, Lee announced that last year’s mind-boggling 7,790 total was surpassed with an extraordinary 8,674 toys that their elves stacked inside the lawmaker’s Avenue R political club’s space. That number brings the total collected for the last eleven years to an astonishing 38,676 items.


Rebecca Bruckenstein (left) and Melanie Weinstein, elves for eleven and eight years, respectively, display total number of toys 41st AD Club drive has collected since 2001. Rebecca Bruckenstein (left) and Melanie Weinstein, elves for eleven and eight years, respectively, display total number of toys 41st AD Club drive has collected since 2001. Lee pointed out that the gifts will benefit Toys for Tots, which, in 2010, estimated that one of every 32 toys collected came from Fidler and Lee’s collection.

The Marine Sergeant in charge of the New York City operation, Ivan Lebron, told Lee, “If if weren’tfor you and your Club, the local operation would clearly not be what it is.”

Lee added, “Our event could not be as successful as it is every year without the scores of supporters who join our team effort to make us one of the Toys for Tots biggest contributors.”


Fidler prepares to place toy on the ceiling-high pile. Fidler prepares to place toy on the ceiling-high pile. Some of the 250 corporate and community organizations that have been ardent sponsors for the 41st A.D.’s annual toy drive include youth groups from Canarsie’s Hebrew Educational Society and the Kings Bay Y in Sheepshead Bay. Lee also cited the Russianbased Be Proud Organization and Tzar Restaurant in south Brooklyn and local chapters of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, who gather donations as they visit predominantly Irish-owned businesses and city firehouses throughout Brooklyn.

Among VIPs who joined the New York Mets’ Mr. Met and the Brooklyn Cyclones’ Sandy the Seagull for the party were: State senators Marty Golden and Kevin Parker, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Assembly members Alan Maisel and Helene Weinstein, former City Comptroller William Thompson, Thomas Jefferson Club president Henry Bolus and 59th District co-leaders Frank Seddio and Roberta Sherman, and 69th Precinct Community Council treasurer Mary Salogub.

In a momentary break from the evening’s festivities, Fidler and the Marines presented certificates to family members of longtime toy drive activists who died this year. Among them were a pair, each given by Fidler and the Marines to a teary, grateful Salogub, whose son John passed away in September.

Lee, the co-founder of the event, noted that the annual has grown to become more meaningful for him since he became a father to his daughter Alessandra four years ago. “Well, this year, there are going to be over 8,000 kids who’ll probably never know us, but will know there are people out there who care about them.”

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