It's rather contradictory to associate the motto "thinking outside the box" with Helping Hands in West Islip, Inc. Because for them, it's what's inside the box that matters.
However, Jennifer Gallozzi--creator of Helping Hands in West Islip, Inc.-- does tend to stray away from the norm.
Instead of focusing exclusively on the holiday season to hold food and toy drives like many unfunded charitable organizations, Gallozzi takes it one step further. She uses Helping Hands to fill the gap of non-traditional drives throughout the entire year, which benefit more than 7,000 kids and 20 local charities.
"Remember, the children have needs all year long as do any of our kids," Gallozzi said. "So in February when they need shoes, Helping Hands will be there with the annual shoe drive. In June we will be there for backpacks, in July for sports equipment and so on and so on."
The modest Gallozzi forgot to mention the back-to-school clothing and halloween costume drives as well. All-in-all, Helping Hands runs about six different collections throughout the year.
But that doesn't mean her holiday drives aren't a massive success, though. Because they are. Take the last couple of weeks for example.
"The Thanksgiving drive is typically a smaller drive for Helping Hands because we pride our selves on the premise that giving is something we do everyday of the year...not just around the holidays," Gallozzi said. "Because folks seemed to have less money to donate turkeys and even the canned goods which have gotten pricey, I tested a new idea and asked those to bake homemade treats. This was a big hit.
"The real story is folks slowing down and making homemade placemats with their children and baking homemade goodies for people they never met. That was something we can all be thankful for this holiday- even in hard times, folks are paying attention and reaching out a helping hand to their less fortunate neighbors."
Gallozzi started Helping Hands back in 1990 to show her children how important it is to help others, and it has been running strong ever since.
One of the organization's biggest events is vastly approaching. On Dec. 8, Gallozzi will be hosting the Helping Hands Annual Toy Drive at the on Union Boulevard. It's going to be a one day event where parents and their children can donate and wrap gifts together. And of course, meet Santa in the process.
"Having the drive held after school will allow an excellent opportunity for our children to drop off their own donations and have a first hand glimpse of how wonderful our community is, as we come together for the sake of all the precious underprivileged children throughout Suffolk County," Gallozzi said. "Last year we collected well over 6,000 toys from our children. Every last toy ended up in the arms of a child."
Gallozzi said that local charities are expecting nominal donations this holiday season, which she points out is the main reason for people around the neighborhood to step up to the plate and prove the forecasters wrong.
Just another example of Gallozzi going against the grain.