Maria Aguilar opens boxes and sorts toys for a good cause. Her team sends them to children in city homeless shelters. Aguilar spent two years in shelters as a teen and is now a site supervisor for the Coalition for the Homeless afterschool program in Queens. She was the recipient of gifts from the same toy drive.

What You Need To Know

  • The Coalition for the Homeless has kicked off its annual Toy Drive for children living in city shelters 

  • There are 15,000 kids living in city shelters around the five boroughs  

  • Last year, the drive collected 17,000 toys  

  • The drive was started earlier this year to make sure toys are delivered despite supply chain issues 

"I got a Barbie Doll and nail polish and I was 14, so I was extremely happy that I was able to paint my nails," said Aguilar, who got involved with the coalition through its sleepaway camp upstate.

The coalition, which is marking its 40th year advocating for and providing services for the homeless, has been collecting toys for kids in shelters for two decades. Last year 17,000 toys were collected, despite the pandemic eliminating corporate collections that the coalition depended on for years. COVID-19 restricted the volunteers able to help the effort too. This year, they're already gathering gifts.

"We are looking for a range of toys and we have curated a wish list through Amazon so people can go to an Amazon wish list and just purchase a couple of toys, especially if you are doing holiday shopping for your own family and loved ones," said Jacquelyn Simone, senior policy analyst for the coalition.

The drive started about three weeks earlier this year, a response to supply chain issues that the coalition fears could keep items from making it to its warehouse in time to be distributed to shelters.

"If we don't start now, if they get delayed in the supply chain, and we get toys in January, you know that's a whole different thing because there are going to be kids that are going to wake up on Christmas and not have a toy," said Beverly McEntarfer, who is director of the coalition's camp Homeward Bound, and helps coordinate the toy drive each year.

To see the Amazon wish list or make a monetary donation the coalition can use to purchase toys, head to this link.