The Feast of St. Nick … and St. John’s

Brooklyn Alumni Chapter of St. John’s Law School Gathers Holiday Toys on Montague Street

Court Street attorney Susan Iannelli (left) and Kings County Supreme Court Justice Patricia Di Mango. In addition to Justices Rivera and Di Mango, other judges in attendance at Tuesday night’s holiday party were Appellate Division Justice Randall Eng, Kings County Civil Court Judge Robin Sheares and Brooklyn Criminal Court Judge Charles Troia.

 

By Ryan Thompson

MONTAGUE STREET — After searching through the hundreds of toys that lined the restaurant’s walls, Anthony Butler finally found the toy that he was looking for — the renowned “Magic 8-Ball.”

“Will Sponsor-a-Family be a success this year?” Butler asked the fortune-telling toy ball.

“Concentrate and ask again,” the ball told him.

The Magic 8-Ball clearly didn’t know what it was talking about. Of course the Sponsor-a-Family program that delivers dinners and toys to needy families during the holiday season would be a success. It is a success every year, thanks to the St. John’s Bread & Life Program and Butler, who is the executive director.

Much of that success can be attributed to the Brooklyn Alumni Chapter of the St. John’s University School of Law, which hosted the holiday party and toy drive on Tuesday night at Eamonn’s restaurant and bar in Brooklyn Heights. Every year, the alumni chapter gathers and donates hundreds of toys to the Sponsor-a-Family program at Bread & Life in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

In the upstairs bar at Eamonn’s, there were footballs, basketballs, stuffed animals and superheroes, stacked on tables, piled on top of each other, and spread out on the floor. At the end of the night, four men (all over 200 pounds and over 6-feet tall) are summoned to haul off the enormous stash in a 15-person cargo van.

“This is what the Christmas holiday is all about,” said Appellate Division Justice Reinaldo E. Rivera, who founded the Brooklyn alumni chapter over a decade ago at the suggestion of then-Presiding Justice Guy Mangano. Their first meeting was actually held at Eamonn’s bar.

It is a special time of the year for Rivera, known as “the Father” to fellow Brooklyn chapter alums. He seems to revel in the holiday spirit.

But Rivera says the recent achievements of the alumni chapter and annual toy drive are attributable to his law clerk, Maria Marti, who has been the president of the chapter for over three years. Marti similarly gives much of the credit back to Rivera, who she says is the toy drive’s biggest contributor.

She pointed out the red sweater that Rivera was wearing on Tuesday night, comparing him to Santa Claus. In fact, Tuesday night was actually the Feast of St. Nicholas. So it was a fitting night to collect so many toys for needy and unsuspecting children in Brooklyn, who will wake up one December morning to find a new remote-control car or Malibu Barbie waiting to be unwrapped.

“It doesn’t really matter what we believe … we believe in the spirit of Christmas, which is evident by these toys,” Marti said to the crowd of her fellow alums. This is Marti’s final year as president, which she said makes this toy drive all the more special for her.

And, as always, it is the biggest toy drive amongst the various St. John’s law school alumni chapters. Manhattan attorney Thomas Principe, the president of the St. John’s Law School Alumni Association, said that he has no doubts that the Brooklyn chapter contributes the most toys.

“Absolutely. Hands down, it is Brooklyn. They have the biggest toy drive,” said Principe, who had just come from another chapter’s holiday party.

Principe brought a toy construction truck and some dinosaurs as his gifts. They, like every other toy, got consumed in the kaleidoscope of colors that slowly expanded along the wall with each new donation.

“This is amazing. It really is. It’s a blessing. It’s a mitzvah!” Butler told the crowd, as he thanked them for their gifts. So, there it is, Mr. Magic 8-Ball; there is the answer to our question.

“Will Sponsor-a-Family be a success this year?” the question was asked again.

“It is certain,” the Magic 8-Ball wisely said.

* * *

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