Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYC Chief Service Officer Anusha Venkataraman announced that holiday wishes from more than 3,700 New York City children and youth were fulfilled by more than 2,000 volunteers from City government, including the Mayor and First Lady McCray, and the private sector through the seventh annual Secret Snowflake gift-giving initiative.
"The holidays can be really apprehensive for many children and youth in our city, but New Yorkers have shown once again how powerful we are when we work together to help those that need us," said Mayor De Blasio. "Especially this year, I want to thank every volunteer who took time to make someone's holiday wish come true and all of our private sector partners that donated gifts to youth and children that need them the most."
"Secret Snowflake is a wonderful example of the giving spirit and generosity of New Yorkers. So many people have stepped up to support their communities and neighbors," said First Lady Chirlane McCray. "I appreciate the tremendous effort of all the volunteers, City agencies and businesses to bring comfort and cheer to thousands of New York City children and youth during this holiday season."
Secret Snowflake mobilizes City and private sector employees as volunteers to answer letters from children and youth referred by City agencies. Since 2014, Secret Snowflake has answered the holiday wishes of more than 19,000 New York City children and youth, ranging in age from one month to 18 years old. The holiday season can be an especially difficult time for New York's vulnerable youth and their families, and this year, NYC Service adapted the drive to ensure it could happen safely despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
"This year has been marked by unique challenges brought on by the pandemic – from the loss and sickness of loved ones to remote learning and economic hardships – and our city's youth have had to overcome a lot of obstacles. Secret Snowflake is an opportunity for City and private sector employees to help New York City families and youth feel connected to a community that cares during the holiday season," said NYC Chief Service Officer Anusha Venkataraman. "We are so grateful for the continued partnership of our fellow City employees and the corporate sector."
NYC Service partnered with the Administration for Children's Services (ACS), the Department for the Aging (DFTA), the Department of Education (DOE), the Department of Homeless Services (DHS), the Human Resources Administration (HRA), and the Mayor's Office to End Gender-Based Violence (ENDGBV) to collect letters from children and youth served by their agencies before the holiday season. Secret Snowflake letters typically request necessities, such as clothing, shoes, or a warm coat to get through the winter, as well as toys, books, and other game-based activities. NYC Service also partnered with the Department of Veterans' Services (DVS) to provide a donation of over 300 books to veterans and their families.
"The holidays are a time for giving and helping grant wishes for children and families in need across the City," said Administration for Children's Services Commissioner David Hansell. "We are grateful to NYC Service, the volunteers, and New Yorkers from across the City, for ensuring the holidays are filled with joy and happiness to make the season special for the many children served by ACS."
"The Secret Snowflake initiative embodies the compassion of our City during the holidays, bringing communities together to support children and families in need," said HRA Administrator Gary Jenkins. "We are proud to once again join NYC Service, our sister City agencies, and private partners in supporting a program that provides a much-needed moment of joy to nearly 500 children in HRA facilities during this unusual holiday season."
"Now more than ever, we look to every New Yorker to help uplift their neighbours in need every which way they can," said Department of Homeless Services Administrator Joslyn Carter. "We are grateful for the Secret Snowflake initiative which will brighten up the holidays for over 1,000 children experiencing homelessness through a variety of gifts, helping us make this the best possible Christmas it can be for the families we serve during these exceptionally challenging times. This NYC Service initiative continues to remind us of the important role communities and private partners play in helping New Yorkers in need get back on their feet, during the holidays and beyond."
The Mayor's Office for International Affairs also engages the diplomatic community in Secret Snowflake. This year's participants included the Permanent Missions of Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, and Norway.
"This year, Secret Snowflake has been an especially meaningful chance for the City to work with the world's largest diplomatic community to help bring some much-needed joy to vulnerable New Yorkers as we all continue to deal with COVID-19," said Mayor's Office for International Affairs Commissioner Penny Abeywardena. "We are so grateful to Missions to the United Nations, our Consulates, and the United Nations for providing gifts and showing love for hundreds of children and families this holiday season."
New York City's private sector is a major contributor to Secret Snowflake. This year, employees from 17 NYC businesses responded to Secret Snowflake letters. NYC Service supplemented their gifts with donations from small and large businesses across the city, valued at nearly $17,000.