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Meet Santa’s Helpers At West Hollow 

West Hollow students pictured with some of the goodies they collected.

Apparently, the North Pole has an annex right under our noses in Melville.

Through their annual toy drive, West Hollow Middle School students are lending some of Santa’s helpers a hand as they bring cheer to needy children in the area.

Organizers of the Dix Hills-based Sunshine Toy Drive benefitted from the fruits of those labors Friday, when they picked up about 350 toys collected by West Hollow students. Those will be put into use this Saturday when the organization hosts their annual holiday party for 100 families.

“West Hollow and High School East were huge in helping us this year. The whole school was great,” said Hope Plumitallo, who organizes the drive with her husband, Dix Hills Fire Commissioner Michael Plumitallo and their daughter, Victoria “Sunshine” Plumitallo, the annual drive’s founder.

As of the Dec. 13 pickup, West Hollow had collected about 650 toys with an overall goal of 1,000. The United Skates of America picked up toys on Monday, and the Junior ROTC and Little Flower, a children and family services organization, will do so on Wednesday, the last day of the drive and also West Hollow’s Winter Wear sweater day.

West Hollow art teacher and student government adviser Matt Petrucci said the toy drive has been an annual project the organization has undertaken each holiday season. This year’s effort benefited from support from the Leadership Club, advised by Gayle Famigletti.

Petrucci said he stripped back this year’s effort to focus on the drive’s primary purpose – giving back to the community.

The toy drive, which began five years ago, became part of daily life at West Hollow Middle School in recent weeks. Eighth-graders Sophia Benson and Haley Califano wrote and read daily morning announcements about the toy drive and recorded a district-wide Connect-Ed call. Building monitors pitched in by wrapping donations boxes, the Leaders Club helped promote the toy drive by crafting posters and decorating, and students added banners and “good old-fashioned word of mouth,” Petrucci said.

The school community embraces the drive as a holiday tradition, he continued.

“I will get a note in my mailbox or an email saying, ‘What can I do?’” he said. “People always ask me, ‘What [how many toys] are we up to?’”

The kids also got a little help from a fantastical little creature called the “Wolverminion,” who became the drive’s mascot. It’s a minion from “Despicable Me” with Hugh Jackman-style Wolverine sideburns and claws, a nod to the school’s Wolverine mascot.

“It seemed to catch on,” Petrucci said of the theme.

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