Riverhead Rotary Club and RIverhead High School NJROTC and Interact Club assembled holiday dinner boxes for local families in need Friday afternoon at Riverhead High School. Photo: Alek Lewis

Local businesses, organizations and individuals are spreading holiday cheer by giving back to the community throughout Riverhead.

Riverhead Highway Superintendent Mike Zaleski donated a pickup truck full of toys to needy families at Roanoke Avenue Elementary School on Monday.

Zaleski said he “enjoys giving more than receiving” during the holiday season.

The highway superintendent, a local runner, said he collected the toys from friends who themselves donated them to “sponsor” a 5K run Zaleski did earlier this month. Zaleski said he has done the toy drive for the past three years.

Riverhead Highway Superintendent Mike Zaleski delivered toys to Roanoke Avenue Elementary School Monday. Photo:AlekLewis

Thomas Payton, the principal of Roanoke Avenue Elementary School, said the school feels “honored and privileged” by Zaleski’s donation.

“It’s going go to much needed families, so we’re really excited about that and for them,” Payton said. “And we can’t thank Mr. Zaleski enough. He had a son come through Roanoke, so I think that’s part of the reason why he picked us. And we’re just so excited that he’s able to do that for us.”

The Riverhead Rotary Club distributed 135 baskets filled with food for holiday meals to families in need on Friday.

The Riverhead High School NJROTC and the Interact Club filled baskets with turkeys and sides for distribution to local families through local churches and the North Fork Spanish Apostolate. Each family also received a poinsettia centerpiece.

Darrien Garay, a Rotarian and main organizer of the event, said everyone should be able to “enjoy the holidays, despite your financial situation. We know that it’s been a tough two years,” he said.

“Riverhead Rotary has been giving back since the 1950s. And we just really believe that you should share what you have and that’s what the holiday is all about — it’s all about giving,” Garay said.

The Salvation Army in Riverhead distributed toys for more than 200 children Wednesday. Courtesy photo.

The Salvation Army in Riverhead distributed toys to more than 300 children on Wednesday whose wish lists were fulfilled by generous community members as a part of the Angel Tree program.

Participating families in the program register children’s Christmas wishes with the Salvation Army, which reaches out to donors in the community who make their wishes come true by buying toys for the children.

“People were excited, some families were shedding tears of joy because they were surprised by what they saw,” Lieutenant Esther Togara of the Salvation Army said. “We are just grateful for the generosity of the people in this community.”

Visiting with Santa at the Riverhead Masonic Lodge Tuesday. Courtesy photo

Santa Claus also brought toys and holiday cheer to individuals with special needs who participate in RISE Life Services’ programs at the Riverhead Masonic Hall on Tuesday.

Charles Evdos, executive director of RISE Life Services in Riverhead at the Santa event at the Masonic Lodge Tuesday.

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Alek Lewis is a lifelong Riverhead resident and a 2021 graduate of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism. Previously, he served as news editor of Stony Brook’s student newspaper, The Statesman, and was a member of the campus’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Email: alek@riverheadlocal.com