Making Christmas dreams come true for Island youngsters

Staten Island Advance, 2007-12-24

Liberian association, Atlas Foundation, others help brighten holidays for less fortunate kids

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Is it better to give than receive? The Staten Island Liberian Cultural Association (SILCA) thinks so. The group distributed more than 500 toys yesterday to the children of the Ponom Homes in Clifton during its annual Christmas party.

SILCA President George Curtis and Vice President Deacon Telee Brown were on hand to give out teddy bears, board games, action figures and dolls to a crowd of nearly 50 ecstatic kids.

“Candyland is my favorite game!” exclaimed Michael Shannon, 9, of Clifton, as he celebrated with his new toy.

Curtis and Brown received donations from Congressman Vito Fosella (R-Staten Island), Councilman James Oddo (R-Mid-Island), Councilman Michael McMahon (D-North Shore), Toys for Tots, Bay Street Landing, Feed The Children, the Theodore A. Atlas Foundation and New York Cares for their 5th annual charity event.

“I want to say thank you to all the people who donated to the community,” said Curtis. “Alot of the parents in this area cannot afford toys. For many of these kids, this day is a dream come true.”

Dreams also came true for two young boys in Port Richmond, who were blessed with a pair of new bikes thanks to SILCA and the Atlas Foundation. When Danny and Roberto Gil mailed a letter to Santa asking for a pair of bikes because their parents couldn’t afford to put gifts under their tree, they never expected to see anything come back from the North Pole. However, a dash of Christmas luck placed their letter in the hands of Feed The Children, who fowarded the letter to Curtis.

“When I read the letter I was touched,” said Curtis, who was able to get a $100 check from the Atlas Foundation. He used the money to purchase a pair of brand new bikes and teddy bears for the Gil brothers.

Curtis, Brown and Kenneth C. Mitchell, Councilman McMahon’s Chief of Staff who is also a member of the Atlas Foundation’s Board of Directors, surprised the Gil family yesterday afternoon with the bikes. While the boys weren’t home at the time, the family now plans to surprise them with their Christmas miracle on the morning of the 25th.

“I helped them write the letter but we didn’t know [the bikes would come],” said their sister Alma Gil. “I’m so happy for them.”

Charity will continue to flow through the Island Liberian community on Saturday at 8 p.m. when the Liberian Cultural Center in Stapleton hosts “Coming To America,” an event in support of a future Kwanzaa celebration at the St. George Theatre. Admission will be $20.

CAP: George Curtis, second from left, president of the Staten Island Liberian Cultural Association, and Ken Mitchell, second from right, chief of staff for Councilman Michael McMahon and a member of the Theodore A. Atlas Foundation, deliver a pair of brand-new bikes to the Gil brothers in Port Richmond. Danny and Roberto Gil had mailed a letter to Santa, saying their parents couldn’t afford to put gifts under their tree, but never expected their wish to come true.