YONKERS, N.Y. -- Christmas came early for Catholic Charities and The Aisling Irish Community Center in Yonkers with the delivery of nearly 1,000 toys and coats from Empire City Casino.
The casino’s 10th Annual Christmas Spirit Toy and Coat Drive is intended to help ensure that New Yorkers in need have a warm coat this winter and a toy or two to put under the Christmas tree for their children.
The Aisling Irish Community Center of Yonkers is the recipient of this year's donation.
Those assembled made their own contributions and encouraged both corporations and individuals to give back to the community.
Though Westchester County is often considered to be an affluent and wealthy community because of its median income of $83,422, there are still extreme pockets of poverty, according to a press release.
Recent statistics indicate nearly 10 percent of Westchester residents are living in poverty, and 31 percent of that population is under the age of 17. Over 12 percent of families do not have anyone in the household employed, and 52 percent of those living in poverty are single parents.
Timothy J. Rooney, president and CEO of Empire City Casino, presented the annual donation to Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York and Órla Kelleher, executive director of Aisling Irish Community Center of Yonkers. The presentation took place inside the casino atrium with the donated toys and coats on full display.
“Social responsibility is not just for corporations, it is imperative we all do what we can,” said Rooney. “Giving back is about community and helping others move forward. There are no greater deeds than charity and service.”
The drive attracted some West Coast warmth. Josh Blake, president of California-based and family-owned company, The Gander Group, donated hundreds of toys to the annual drive. This is the fifth consecutive year that Blake and his family have showered New Yorkers with their generosity. He is committed to assisting those less fortunate, and participates in toy drives like Empire City’s, and also donates time, money, food and clothing to those who need assistance.
Another annual key contributor to the effort is John Lennon, owner of Smart Move & Storage in Yonkers, who donates his company’s services to transport and store of all donations while they are distributed by local community organizations.
“Once again we are fortunate, through the generosity of Tim Rooney and the Empire City Casino family for this donation of toys and coats that will benefit some of the more vulnerable families that we work within the City of Yonkers and beyond,” said Sullivan.
Other officials in attendance included: Westchester County Executive Robert P. Astorino; Mayor of the City of Yonkers Mike Spano; New York State Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins; New York State Senator George Latimer; New York State Assembly Member Shelley Mayer; New York State Assembly Member Gary Pretlow; and Westchester County Legislator David Tubiolo.
“Aisling Irish Community Center is delighted to be chosen again this year as a recipient of Empire City Casino’s annual coat and toy drive,” said Kelleher. “Aisling Irish Community Center is widely recognized as a resource and respite center in Yonkers. We provide programs and services for the more vulnerable people in our community, i.e. seniors, low income families, homeless, etc.”
“The holidays provide a wonderful opportunity to show goodwill to our neighbors,” said Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino.
“The holiday season is not about what we hope to receive in gifts but rather how we can give of ourselves to benefit others in our community,” said Mayor Mike Spano.