More than 200 kind-hearted Coney Islanders toasted six local leaders at the Shorefront Toys for Tots’ Children First Award Ceremony at Gargiulo’s restaurant in Coney Island on March 28.
The event celebrated Kings Countians who are committed to advocating for the borough’s kids without drawing attention to themselves, according to the organization’s founder.
“We were looking to honor people who are actively involved in causes to help children, people who go about it without necessarily looking to be honored for what they’re doing,” said Brian Gottlieb, who lives in Coney Island. “They do it because it’s the right thing to do.”
Gottlieb honored IS 96 principal Janet Ndzibah and PS 188 principal Antoinette Tucci for their work educating southern Brooklyn’s school children.
Coney Island Hospital’s CEO William Brown was honored for helping to facilitate and expand the hospital’s partnership with Shorefront Toys for Tots.
Hon. Nikki Lucas was recognized for coordinating holiday programs for children in East New York, while Hon. Joseph Bova was honored for organizing an annual Christmas program for youngsters through the Bensonhurst Lions Club.
Emily Rodriguez was also recognized for her work in the family court division of the New York City Law Department.
Those who attended the celebration donated more than 500 toys, which the organization will distribute to the Borough of Church’s children during the seasons of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa, according to Gottlieb, who said that organizers will — for the first time this year — also distribute toys to Muslim youngsters celebrating Ramadan, in partnership with the Apna Brooklyn Community Center in Brighton Beach.
Gottlieb founded Shorefront Toys for Tots in 1995 in memory of his mother, Myrna, who died two years prior and inspired her son with her civic mindedness and her work on behalf of children, he said.
“My mother was somebody who was very active in children’s causes, and she was a strong believer in giving back to the community and being active,” Gottlieb said.
The born-and-bred Brooklynite added that he and the other volunteers who operate the group stay motivated by the happiness their work brings to youngsters.
“Seeing the face of the child smile, seeing the kid being happy, enjoying their new toy or book or puzzle — that’s what makes everything worthwhile,” Gottlieb said.