He makes a list and checks it twice, and uses his resources to give children a little hope in the form of a toy.
Patrick Franzone was honored during the Freeport Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Installation Dinner-Dance on April 12 as “Citizen of the Year” for his Toys for Freeport Tots program.
The program collects new, unwrapped toys and raises funds throughout the year to purchase new toys and clothes, which are distributed to those in need during the holidays.
Franzone’s idea for Toys for Freeport Tots was inspired by his Marine Corps service. He frequently assisted with Toys for Tots — a program run by the United States Marine Corps Reserve. When he left the Marines and became a Freeport Police officer, he saw it as an opportunity to collect toys for the corps, he said.
Franzone said he came from a working-class family who loved helping people, and always made Christmas the most enjoyable event of the year.
“I want to make every kid that I can have a great Christmas,” he said.” It doesn’t matter what the parents can or can’t afford.”
Franzone started with one school in Freeport when collecting toys for the holidays. He said he gave to 25 families, then 50, and so on.
“Every year we spend over $20,000 at Toys R Us and Maddie’s Toy Shop from the money we raise,” Franzone said.
Toys for Freeport Tots is run by volunteers from the Freeport Police Benevolent Association, and became incorporated in 2009. That same year, Franzone started an event called Kyle Fest to raise money for the program and to celebrate the 19th birthday of his son who had died.
Franzone said he is surrounded by great family, friends and co-workers who help him raise money, and are willing to donate to the cause. Franzone also credited the team of social workers from Freeport schools with helping him locate children in need.
“We don’t just give to that one child,” Franzone said. “If that child has siblings who are within that age group, we’ll give them toys for everybody in the family.”
The Toys For Freeport Tots helps families in other ways. It aided families in the wake of Superstorm Sandy in 2012, and it donates to music programs in Freeport schools.
Franzone said the program is a community-wide effort. He said he is not looking to be a child’s hero, so he gives the toys directly to the parents so they can give them.
“If a toy is still here, then we didn’t do something right, because that means there is a child who is missing a toy on Christmas,” he said.