The spirit of giving: Brooklynites bring their holiday fundraising efforts online

man in car decorated in holiday lights fundraising
Every year, Joshua Gold decks out his car in Christmas lights to spread cheer to his community — and he’s one of several Brooklynites who have taken to the web to raise money for their festive causes.
Photo courtesy Joshua Gold/GoFundMe

It’s giving…spirit!

This holiday season, Brooklynites are bringing their fundraising efforts into the 21st century by utilizing crowdfunding websites like GoFundMe to help spread cheer. There, a number of community-centric initiatives are thriving — from toy drives to holiday lightings and then-some.

GoFundMe Regional Spokesperson Madison Jones said initiatives like these are perhaps more important than ever.

“Many are feeling the pinch of rising prices, causing stress among families ahead of the holidays,” Jones told Brooklyn Paper. “That’s where the Brooklyn community comes in to help, displaying the kindness we see on our platform every day, but especially during this season of giving.”

holiday toy drive
Toy drives and holiday fundraisers are nothing new – but now more than ever, Brooklynites are taking to the internet to raise money and support for their good deeds. File photo by Steve Solomonson

By giving individuals a platform where they can raise funds, Jones said, crowdfunding websites like hers are assisting the individuals who benefit from them.

“GoFundMe is a community where people come together to support one another during some of the most important moments in their lives, from celebratory moments to more poignant ones,” she said. “GoFundMe connects people looking for help with those who want to give in a meaningful way.”

Jones also recognized that the purpose of GoFundMe goes beyond that of just raising funds and asking for donations, it spreads a message.

“Participating in holiday giving does not necessarily mean donating money,” she said. “Spreading awareness by sharing a fundraiser link across social media channels, and encouraging others to give and share can also help make a difference in communities across Brooklyn and the country.”

Here are eight local fundraisers working to help others experience holiday cheer this season:

Tattooer’s toy drive

The “Hidden Gem Tattoo Toy Drive” was started by Hidden Gem Tattoo Studio in Bensonhurst. As of Dec. 12, the studio has raised almost $1,300 toward a $5,500 goal, and its mission is to buy and distribute Christmas presents for children and those in need in the community. The shop’s owner, longtime artist and former Ink Master contestant Drew Hicks, kickstarted the fundraiser with an initial $1,000 of his own. He hopes those he’s inked – and those he hasn’t — will consider giving toward his shop’s cause.

‘Focus’ing on the holidays

“Collective Focus Holiday Fundraiser 2022” seeks to increase the ability of Collective Focus Resource Hub, a Women, POC, and LGBTQIA+-led nonprofit, to collect food and clothing, as well as expand their community members to 20,000 in 2023. So far, $16,742 of the $50,000 goal has been raised.

‘Dream’ toy drive

In an effort to bring joy and the magic of Christmas to chronically ill children, the Fifth Annual Dream Gift Toy Drive seeks to raise funds in order to gift these children their “dream” Christmas presents, taking the burden off of their parents, and changing lives. As of now, more than $27,000 has been raised toward a $30,000 goal.

Illuminating Vanderbilt

The fundraiser to “Brighten the holidays on Vanderbilt Avenue” worked to bring neighbors together to light up Prospect Height’s “Main Street.” More than $12,500 has been raised so far in the effort to continue this three-year tradition, spearheaded by the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council.

neighbors fundraising for holiday lights in Brooklyn
A group of Prospect Heights neighbors are raising money to bring holiday lights and decorations to Vanderbilt Avenue — the “Main Street” of the nabe. Photo courtesy Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council/GoFundMe

‘The Ultimate Operation Christmas Tree!’

Founded by Joshua Gold, “The Ultimate Operation Christmas Tree!” seeks to spread holiday cheer in Brooklyn.

Each year, Gold decorates his truck with lights and drives around the community. Gold launched a GoFundMe to help with spare equipment, he told Brooklyn Paper, such as lights, batteries, inverters and fuses. He hopes the community will come together to support his cause.

“Driving around with my truck day or night just makes everyone smile,” he said. “It’s fun to watch people’s heads turn or tell me how amazing and unique the idea of 10,000 LED lights is. The whole reason I’m doing this for years was to spread joy and happiness for the holiday season.”

Gold works to create the display to bring a smile to the faces of those who see it.

“This is a bright time of the year,” he said. “Decorating my car every year is so much fun and I love to see all the reactions I get, the support from strangers brings me joy. This is why I love to do this display.”

‘Scarf Sisters’

Another initiative, “Scarf Sisters Annual Toy Drive 2022” was started by Laura Scarf with the goal of connecting with shelters and missions to help children in need. $1,510 of the $2,500 goal has been raised so far, and the donations go to help struggling families.

Chanukah toy drive

The “Tomche Shabbos Chanukah Toy Drive” has raised more than $6,800 toward its $10,000 goal, and it seeks to assist Jewish children in need by providing gift cards and food packages to “Jewish children who are living in financially challenging conditions.”

A pizzaiolo’s push to light his nabe

For the last two years, Salvatore Sinnona, owner of Tony’s Pizzeria in Greenpoint, has brought holiday lights to Nassau Avenue, from Newel Street to Russell Street. This year, the piazzaoilo called for donations to help illuminate the North Brooklyn nabe — and spread some holiday cheer along the way.

Jones said she’s encouraged by the kindness of Kings County.

“This year, community and family fundraisers were the largest growing categories,” she said. “Which is in line with these holiday fundraisers we’re seeing in the Brooklyn community to help others this holiday season.”