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Kiwanis, Borrelli’s bring Christmas cheer to East Meadow

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Borrelli’s Italian Restaurant became like Santa’s workshop last Sunday. 

East Meadow Kiwanis members sorted and distributed toys and hot meals in the parking lot as gusts of wind blew restless snow and Kiwanian David Rothman, greeted participating families dressed as Santa Claus.

One of the club’s most popular traditions is a Christmas party, held at Borrelli’s each year for families in need in the community. Though the eatery could not host such a large event this year, it collaborated with Kiwanis on a way to continue giving families a holiday meal and children a Christmas experience.

The club hosted its Secret Snowflake Toy Drive through December and Borrelli’s cooked Italian meals for each family. Children cheered and cars honked as Rothman waved at them. He has played the role for roughly 20 years at the annual party and wanted to continue the tradition. “I love doing this,” he said. “I love seeing the joy on everyone’s faces.”

The event usually takes months of preparation, but Kiwanis had it adjusted and ready to go in three weeks. In total, Kiwanis collected toys for 191 children, ages 5 through 16, from 80 families.

“The families are very grateful we’re still doing something,” said Elizabeth Fries, who has been chairing the event for over a decade.

“This is definitely a different way of doing it,” Fries said, adding, with a chuckle, “And God is laughing at me now with this snow.”

The East Meadow School District hosts a toy drive for families in need each year, but is also modifying the event to limit physical contact. Rather than donating toys, the district is collecting gift cards for local businesses, and Kiwanis also donated 10 gift cards to each of the district’s nine buildings.