Members of the Rotary Club of Riverhead, the Riverhead High School Interact Club and Riverhead High School NJROTC assembled 205 Christmas dinner boxes at the high school Friday afternoon. The boxes were distributed through local churches and the Social Parish and Food Pantry. Photo: Denise Civiletti

‘Tis the season for giving in Riverhead Town. Local people are spreading holiday cheer and giving back to the community during the holiday season.

Here’s a sampling of the generosity of locals this holiday season:

The Riverhead Rotary Club distributed 205 baskets filled with food for holiday meals to families in need on Friday.

The Riverhead High School NJROTC and the Interact Club on Friday afternoon filled baskets with turkeys and sides for distribution to local families through local churches and the Social Parish and Food Pantry (formerly North Fork Spanish Apostolate.) Each family also received a poinsettia centerpiece.

Riverhead Rotary also adopted 100 elementary school children in the Riverhead Central School District for the Christmas holiday, providing winter coats, clothing toys and other gifts.

Members of Riverhead Rotary deliver donations of winter coats, clothes, toys and games to Phillips Avenue Elementary School (top), Roanoke Avenue Elementary School, (bottom left) and Riley Avenue Elementary School (bottom right). Courtesy photos: Rotary Club of Riverhead.

The Butterfly Effect Project worked to have 173 children served by the organization adopted for the holiday by local residents and businesses, with gifts ranging from bicycles and helmets, to games, toys and clothing. BEP’s efforts also provided 342 children in need across the East End with gifts.

“These young people are guaranteed to have a wonderful holiday because of each of you and we couldn’t be more grateful. Thank you all for making the holidays merry and bright,” BEP Executive Director Tijuana Fulford said.

The Salvation Army distributed 700 gifts on Tuesday through its Angel Tree program, according to Lt. Esther Togara of the Riverhead Salvation Army. 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.

“We are grateful for the generous donors, volunteers and all the people who participated for this event to be successful,” Togara said.

The Salvation Army distributed 700 gifts on Tuesday through its Angel Tree program.
Courtesy photos: The Salvation Army and National Grid.

National Grid donated gifts for 70 children through the Angel Tree program, according to a press release from the energy company.

“Working with the Riverhead Salvation Army is becoming a tradition for our team in our generation facilities and we are thrilled to participate again this year to help families in need,” Will Hazelip, president of National Grid Ventures US Northeast said . “The holidays are an important time of year, especially for children. The Angel Tree offers an opportunity for us to fill a child’s wish list and make the season memorable for every family.”

The Peconic River Sportsman’s Club donated $22,000 to each of three Long Island-based breast cancer organizations: the North Fork Breast Health Coalition, Babylon Breast Cancer Coalition and Lucia’s Angels. The club raised the money with its Ninth Annual “Take a Shot at Cancer” sporting clays event held in September, which was attended by nearly 200 people.

“Although we work with numerous charities, this is our signature event and has become part of the fabric of our club,” Peconic River Sportsman’s Club President Mike McEnroy said. “We are already planning next year. These three local breast cancer organizations are doing important work here on Long Island, and our club is honored to assist by raising much needed funds.”

Natalie Lugo, LMT, reflexologist to NFBHC; and NFBHC directors Janice Jay Young, Beejay Ferucci, President Melanie McEvoy Zuhoski and Vanie Tuthill at the Peconic River Sportsman’s Club. Courtesy photo: North Fork Breast Health Coalition.

North Fork Breast Health Coalition President Melanie McEvoy Zuhoski said the generosity of the sportsman’s club allows the coalition to provide additional services and funding to those in need.

“We are so grateful for such a generous and loyal benefactor as Peconic River Sportsman’s Club,” Zuhoski said.  “With this kind of support, we are able to provide additional services and funding to those in need. “This donation will truly make a difference in people’s lives.”

Riverhead Highway Superintendent Mike Zaleski donated 200 toys for needy families in Riverhead.

The highway superintendent, a local runner, collected the toys from friends who donated them to “sponsor” a 5K Zaleski ran on Monday. After his run, Zaleski took the toys packed into an enclosed trailer to Roanoke Avenue Elementary School. This is the fifth year he’s done the toy drive.

“The school [and] the children love it — and it’s always better to give than receive. I really enjoyed doing it,” Zaleski said. “I think this year we raised the most toys. A lot of people found out that I did and they donated. It’s just a good thing.”

Riverhead Highway Superintendent Mike Zaleski delivered toys to Roanoke Avenue Elementary School Dec. 19. Zaleski runs a daily 5K “toy drive” around Riverhead and collects toy donations from residents and businesses. Courtesy photos: Mike Zaleski

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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