Goodfellows: Youngsters get care, Christmas at North Side 'nest'


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Karen English remembers how bad she felt around Christmas time two years ago, when she realized she probably wouldn't be able to afford presents for her son, Emory.

Her car broke down about three months earlier, and while she was able to buy a new one, she knew that meant scaling way back on the gifts for Emory, whose birthday is on Christmas Eve.

"By the time Christmas and his birthday came up, I was in tears," Ms. English said. "I was like, 'There's nothing I can do.' "

Her plan was to try to celebrate her son's birthday as much as she could and basically forget about Christmas altogether -- no deliveries from Santa, no decorations.

That's when she expressed how upset she was to Gwen Marcus, the director of Robin's Nest Daycare Center, where Emory, who turns 7 today, has been going since he was 5 months old.

Ms. Marcus said she could arrange something with Toys for Tots and told Ms. English not to worry. She said Emory deserved gifts for his birthday and Christmas.

"I love this place," Ms. English said of Robin's Nest, a quaint day care center on Perrysville Avenue on the North Side. "The ladies are great, the day care is just wonderful. They treat all the kids like they're their own, and they take special care of the kids."

Toy trucks, children's books and stuffed animals line the shelves of Robin's Nest, which takes care of kids ranging from 6 weeks old to second grade and is owned by the Reformed Presbyterian Home across the street.

Tiny coats and gloves and scarves hang from hooks on the wall in the playroom that awaits the children who finish their breakfast. Plastered prominently above the assorted toys and books is a poster of the food pyramid.

"For some of these kids, it's the best meal of the day," said Sandy Delancey, an administrative assistant at Robin's Nest. "Some kids come in and you can just tell they haven't eaten or had a good meal. And it's not that the parents don't care. It's just hard when they're trying to go to school or working or running around with their kids."

Ms. Delancey said the day care center, which was started 16 years ago, watches about 20 children -- many of whom come from families either at or below the poverty line.

"Our goal is to provide the children with a good environment and have them school-ready so they have the best chance at succeeding," said Ms. Delancey.

Mothers like Ms. English are grateful for the services Robin's Nest provides. Especially around this time of year, when, as she knows all too well, times can get tough.

She and Emory will be able to celebrate his birthday and Christmas again this year -- without having to sacrifice one or the other -- thanks to Robin's Nest and the Marine Corps Toys for Tots program.

"He's gotten radio control cars from Toys for Tots, action figures, all the stuff for boys his age," Ms. English said. "He was quite happy and so was I. It was just great. It was wonderful."

Donations to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Goodfellows Fund benefit Toys for Tots and in turn help out organizations like Robin's Nest, where Emory and the other children received toys Friday as they went home for the weekend following their Christmas celebration.

You can donate to Goodfellows using the coupon in the newspaper or online at www.post-gazette.com/goodfellows. Every donation is acknowledged in the Post-Gazette.

Today's total: $6,915

Grand total: $155,931.63

Anonymous $1,000

Anonymous $500

Paul Davis Restoration staff $300

Anonymous $300

John R. Echement $250

Janet Fawcett $200

Paul and Aileen Stefano $200

Nancy and Richard Clark $200

Jim and Joann Hockenberry, James Hockenberry $150

Bill and Ruth Goode in memory of Dorothy Hart $125

Lynn and Paul Raith $100

Anonymous $100

Mr. and Mrs. Robert A. Barnes $100

Thomas M. Fawcett and Katherine E. Fawcett $100

In memory of Agnes Rheam $100

Lee Goddard $100

Anonymous $100

E.J. Lange $100

Dr. and Mrs. Robert Fusco $100

Ross Jennings $100

Nancy and Henry Armstrong $100

Anonymous $100

Gary and Donna Vallano $100

Michael E. Kowalok $75

Anonymous $75

John Seitz $60

Mary Gwen Phillips $50

In memory of Sanjib K. Mukherjee $50

The Lynchs $50

Hicks children and grandchildren $50

In memory of Bam $50

In memory of Thomas "Red" Garvey $50

In memory of Jim and Jean Fischerkeller and their daughter Susie Gray $50

Mr. Ed Burkhart $50

Clair and Jill Maxwell $50

Anonymous $50

Devine family $50

Anonymous $50

Courtney Centner and Nathan Davidson $50

George and Sharon Kelly Vrontos $50

James and Dolores Callaghan $50

In memory of Dave, Diane, and Casey Berkowitz $50

Marilyn Renkey $50

In memory of Luciana Wrzesinski $50

Nancy and James Stranko $50

Mark and Sue Keller $50

Michael Bryson $50

Leona Scrivo $40

Anita Newell $40

William K. Martz $35

Jackson Nolan $35

Ainsley Nolan $35

Alex, Sam, Max, Nathan, Rene, Ari and Sophia $35

Mary Kappler in memory of Ryan $30

Anonymous $30

Rebecca, Erin and Colleen $30

Stubbs family $30

Mr. and Mrs. Jeffrey Caprino $25

In memory of Joan Albrecht $25

Gary Hutchko and Donna Graney $25

In memory of Barbara and Harold King and Harold King Jr. $25

Anonymous $25

The Kish family $25

In memory of Walter and Bernice Witkowski and Daisy $25

Mark and Lorraine Defabio $25

Tony and Bernice Piccuillo $25

Clare and Gary Torso $25

Charlene F. Devin $25

Jacqueline Murray $25

In honor of Isla Abrams $25

Greg and Ashley Richert $25

Rita Z. Woods $25

In memory of Andrew Hetzer $25

M/M Pat Flanigan $25

In memory of Tom Lesniewski, Eva, and Joe Allen $25

Sandie Scott $20

Anonymou s$20

In memory of Frank, Reda, Conrad, Dorthy and Charlie $20

Dan and Mary Lechok $20

Anonymous $20

Anonymous $20

Richard Fees $20

Makler family $20

Ken Kennard $20

Mr. and Mrs. J.A. Donaldson $20

In memory of Virginia M. Boocks $20

Walter F. Boehler $15

Cal DiMascio $15

In loving memory of Marie L. Lutz $15

In memory of T.H. Nichols, T.J. Nichols, Jan Nichols Chowan and "Sis" Blasco $10

Anonymous $10

Evans family $10

Charles King $10

In memory of FloraLee Stein $10

Anonymous $10

Carolyn Lindsay $10

Robert W. McVay $5

Donna Pastore $25

Bill & Dianna Paul $25

Anonymous $25

Stankowski Family $25

Elaine Bigley $25

In memory of Jack Hines $25

John D. Kenst $25

In loving memory of William J. & Antoinette Wilson $25

In honor of Catherine Paige's 91st Birthday $25

Mary Lou Christie $25

In memory of Little Billy Merola $20

Anonymous $20

John Dollar $20

Joe Scripko $20

Anonymous $20

Anonymous $20

William & Marcia Thomas $20

Sandy Hook Elementary Children $20

Ms. Deborah Zourelias $15

In memory of Vincent E. Morgan $15

In memory of Connecticut School Shooting Victims $15

Karen Moore $10

Howard R. Crawford $10

Jean Bomeli $10

Bob Cramer $10

Anonymous $10

Mikey & Tommy Henshaw $10

Mallory $7

Mary Me $7

Will U. $7

Anonymous $5

holidays

Brian Batko: bbatko@post-gazette.com. First Published December 24, 2012 5:00 AM


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