Holiday Giving, South Philly-Style: Making a South Philadelphia Christmas Wish

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By Eldon Graham

Many Philadelphia neighborhoods go all out at the holidays, creating spectacular presentations of lights and decorations. In South Philadelphia, neighbors pull resources to create amazing displays that attract people from down the street, across the city and even from other towns—all eager to get their fill of dazzling holiday spirit…. Photo by J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia

Taking Our South Philadelphia Streets Back, a nonprofit dedicated to providing communication and sharing resources with residents, businesses and local authorities, is reaching out to all of South Philly to deliver some wish fulfillment.

As Samantha Regalbuto explained, the group wants to give back to the community by helping neighbors less fortunate than others by hosting a holiday event, “Making a South Philadelphia Christmas Wish.” The event is being held on Saturday at the Victorian Room at 1815 South 11th Street at 1 p.m.

“The donations are going to families in need in the South Philadelphia area who have been nominated by their community,” she said.

Regalbuto is the daughter of Carol Lanni, the founder of TOSPSB. TOSPSB was created by Lanni in 2013 after her son, then 11 years old, was a victim of a crime.

The organization is looking for donations in the range of new clothing, new and unwrapped toys, and food. All the efforts are dedicated to helping as many families as possible to have a merry Christmas.

This season’s event, billed as a “telethon” (actually a live radio broadcast), was born out of values of Regalbuto she learned from her parents. “As a child, my parents always instilled in me to give back,” she said.

Regalbuto found motivation for the Christmas event in her experiences as a child. While living in New Jersey at a young age, after her parents went through a divorce, her mother was left with no more than “five dollars in her pocket,” said Regalbuto.

Their hardship forced them to open their garage doors and sell everything they had to keep their family going. After all was said and done, her mother ended up with $1,200 in her pocket. This experience had a lasting effect on her, teaching her the value of giving to the needy.

Vascom Radio (South Beat 103.7, a South Philadelphia neighborhood station) and Nikki Rae’s Displays will be stationed at the plaza.

Drop-offs for food, toys and clothing began in November at places like Clean Cuts Barber Shop, at 1512 Wolf Street; Collision Craft, Inc., at 1930 S. 20th Street; Oregon Diner, at 302 West Oregon Avenue; Pastificio, at 1528 Packer Avenue; Beach Tanning, at 2525 S. Broad Street; and Villa di Roma, at 936 S. 9th Street. Many vendors have already signed up.

Regalbuto is grateful to have received a “tremendous amount” of support from her South Philadelphia community, from small businesses to Philadelphia favorites such as the Philadelphia Pretzel Factory among others.

A big supporter of the event is Kayla Vasilakos, who will be the disc jockey.  Other large supporters of TOSPSB in the past have chosen to be drop-off locations.

So far, two families have had gifts bought for them, with at least 20 gifts destined for each child. Recipients will have the option of accepting the gift from the person or persons who donated the gift.

A total of 30 families have already been adopted, but there is still time for more during the holiday.

“We want people to come out bring a toy for someone less fortunate than themselves and get South Philadelphia to come together as a community. Our city needs to come together,” she emphasized. “We don’t do that enough.”

During the event, expect Santa and Mrs. Claus, as well as more entertainment for all who come to drop off a gift for a family in need.

TOSPSB also offers an opportunity to adopt one of the families. Anyone interested can call Regalbuto at (267) 441-6010 for information on the ages and genders of the children, if donors want to shop for one family specifically.

Anyone looking to nominate a family in need for the event should call or contact TOSPSB at Please provide as much background information as possible on the family you are nominating, which must be located in the South Philadelphia area. More information can be found on the TOSPSB Facebook page.

You can reach Eldon Graham at

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