THE BRONX — The holiday spirit was in full swing in the Bronx on Wednesday with hundreds of children getting a gift just in time for Christmas.
What made these gifts special is that the children got to pick it out themselves.
The 161st Street Merchants’ Association has been putting this event on for over two decades and displayed over 200 toys for girls and boys aged three to 12.
Anthony Roldan picked a Monopoly board game.
“I got this because I have not played this about two years now,” Roldan said. “I wanted to play it because I want to play with my family.”
Court Deli and Yankee Tavern co-sponsored the event and Joe Bastone, the owner of Yankee Tavern, is still giving back despite taking a deep financial hit through the pandemic.
“Some of these kids, unfortunately, their parents don’t have money the way the economy is now and with everything costing so much,” Bastone said.
It’s his way of saying he’s part of this neighborhood too and here for the longterm.
“I want to demonstrate to the kids in the neighborhood that the merchants are good, the merchants care about them, and we want to do something for Christmas,” Bastone added.
Maxine Turner of the 161st Merchants’ Association said the parents are thankful.
“A parent came in and said, ‘This is awesome because I didn’t have any money,’” Turner said. “That touched me.”
For some kids, it’s a bonus gift, and they’re grateful.
“This is awesome because now we get to have an extra gift for us to play,” Roland added.
But mom and dad aren’t allowed inside while the children browse for a toy so that they don’t influence what the child chooses.
Habibah Caldwell is a mother of two.
“I’m really happy about them getting gifts because this year is a little different for us,” Caldwell said. “We gave away a lot of toys instead of receiving, so I’m happy that they’re able to get back as well.”