By Chris Mellides
At just 8 years old, Victoria Plumitallo learned that there are families much less fortunate than her own that struggle to provide during the holiday season. She felt compelled to help.
Over the course of the last nine years, Plumitallo, who is now 17, has watched her initial interest in helping the less fortunate endure and grow into a not for profit called the Sunshine Toy Drive — a name that draws its meaning from Mike Plumitallo’s affectionate nickname for his daughter.
Supplying local families in need with toys and clothing during the holiday season, the Sunshine Toy Drive began in 2006 as a small operation and has since grown to accept thousands of toys and clothing items for Long Island families who cannot afford gifts to give during the holidays.
“My daughter started the drive when she was in fourth grade, and she was very persistent, so we figured we needed to do something,” Victoria’s mother, Hope, said. “We started making some phone calls and finding out about toy drives, and then we decided to start our own.”
Plumitallo said that her family collects donated toys and clothes which are given away in a designated “toy shop” area with tables organized by gender and age. With help from a volunteer “personal shopper,” parents first choose their children’s gifts, then bring them to, wrapping stations where volunteers wrap and package it all.
“Parents can come and get to shop for their children with a personal shopper, and then when they pick everything out we wrap it up for them, put everything in a big black garbage bag, and they go home and celebrate whatever the holiday is that they celebrate,” Plumitallo said.
She added, “It gives the parents a sense of participation instead of just going in and having toys dropped off, they actually get to come and pick up what they want for their kids.”
Plumitallo also said that her daughter has been taking a more active role with organizing the toy drive — shortly after the drive achieved not for profit status earlier this year. And that her daughter’s classmates volunteer their time to help make the drive a yearly success.
“This really teaches you what the holidays are all about and even though it’s an awful lot of work, when the day comes and you just see the look on people’s faces, it puts everything back in perspective for you,” Plumitallo said.
New children's toys and clothing items may be left at the Dix Hills Fire Department Headquarters at 115 East Deer Park Road, just north of the Northern State Parkway. Donations may be brought to the drop box at the firehouse, anytime day or night up until Dec. 18. The drive is set to take place the following day on Dec. 19. Questions can be directed to Hope Plumitallo at 516-807-4044.