NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A Christmas Day party and gift exchange went off as planned in the basement of the Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn just two days after a fire broke out inside the Episcopal church.
“I’m grateful for what I have, so now – give what people don’t have,” 16-year-old volunteer Nedejeh Seon told CBS 2’s Amy Dardashtian.
She gave dozens of children from a shelter in Brooklyn the Christmas party they may have otherwise not had.
“This year has been pretty hard as far as buying gifts and to put a smile on my son’s face, this is priceless,” Shininia Smith told CBS 2’s Dardashtian.
Smith’s son Deshawn could barely contain his excitement when he saw Santa.
“I couldn’t change this day for nothing. I’d rather be nowhere else,” Smith said.
The children’s smiles lit up the basement of the church where the gifts were being stored the day the fire broke out in the foyer. Investigators are exploring whether the cause was arson.
The church reopened in time for Christmas Eve Mass, and Seon’s Christmas Day party lifted everyone’s spirit.
Each gift was picked out and personalized so that each child got exactly what they want and need, Dardashtian reported.
“My mom was going back and forth with Santa to try to get the American doll for me and I got her today,” a little girl told Dardashtian.
Not far from the church at the New York City Rescue Mission, volunteers of all ages helped more than 100 needy New Yorkers try on donated coats.
New York Cares holds the annual drive. But following superstorm Sandy, the need is even greater this year.
“Many many residents both in the Rockaways, Staten Island and areas of Brooklyn who normally would not have been without a coat this season are,” said New York Cares director Gary Bagley.
New York Cares said it hopes to collect 125,000 coats in the next week to meet the need.
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