The Beachcomber Holiday Guide

Giving to Others as Easy as Dropping Off Some Toys, Coats and Food

By DAVID BIGGY | Nov 14, 2018

Ah, yes. The holidays are coming. And for many, that often means lots to do and only so much time to do it. Of course, shopping for gifts never can be done too early, but for some, doing so is a bone of contention.

Some common questions at this time of year might be “What do I get for Uncle Jim?” or “What does Mom need this year?” or “Oh, and then there’s that nice co-worker who always helps me out – what do I get her and how much should I even spend?”

Well, forget them for a moment (still, it’s probably a good idea to at least get your mom a Christmas present). Instead, let’s talk about the ways you can help others outside your immediate circle of family and friends. After all, opportunities abound, and each gift will be appreciated beyond your imagination.

Since 2000, the Toy Run Foundation has assisted thousands of families throughout Southern Ocean County, and by the time this year’s effort culminates in mid-December, the foundation will have provided gifts to hundreds of local children of all ages.

“By the time we’re done and give out the gifts, we’re going to be giving out between 2,000 and 3,000 gifts,” said Christina Jarin, who coordinates the effort alongside her husband, Dennis, and Lou Serrao. “Unfortunately, the demand is always increasing, and we don’t typically get a lot of gifts for teenagers, so we’re always in need of gifts for that 13-to-18 age group. We never have enough.”

Each year, the foundation creates a department store-style setup at St. Mary’s Parish Center in Manahawkin and allows those registered to receive gifts to come in and select what they want, free of charge. Typically, each child on the foundation’s list may receive three to five gifts each.

Gifts for teenagers are especially needed, and any store gift cards up to $15 each are always a hot item. Jarin said some appropriate gifts for older girls include makeup kits, blow dryers or hair straighteners, stationery, throw blankets, purses, winter gloves and scarves, and bath-and-beauty sets. For older boys, Jarin recommends skateboards, sports equipment, wallets, sports team apparel, men’s electric razors, and deodorant and cologne sets.

This year’s effort started with the annual Motorcycle Toy Run – which Jarin reported to be a great success – in early October, and gifts will be accepted until Friday, Dec. 14. Items can be dropped off to St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, 747 West Bay Ave., Barnegat, through the morning of Dec. 14, or after 4 p.m. to St. Mary’s Parish Center, 100 Bishop Way, Manahawkin.

More information about the Toy Run Foundation and its toy drive can be found online at Also find the foundation on Facebook, or call Dennis Jarin at 609-290-0587.

For more than 30 years, PBA Local 297 and the Stafford Township Recreation Department have been coordinating efforts to make sure local youngsters have gifts for Christmas as well as warm coats for the upcoming winter months through the annual Holiday Toy Drive and Stafford Cares For Kids Winter Coat Drive.

“There’s a huge need in the community,” said Jennifer McBrien, who coordinates the rec department’s efforts alongside Deb Budesa. “Every gift helps, and there’s never a time when we can have too much. There’s always somebody else out there who is in need, and we always try to make Christmas something special for everyone.

“And we’re really in need of new coats. Every kid needs a coat for the winter, and we’d prefer to have more coats to give away before winter really gets going. There’s never such a thing as enough. We’re always coming across kids who need a coat, even after Christmas.”

The toy and coat drives began on Nov. 5, and donations will be accepted through Friday, Dec. 21. New, unwrapped gifts – for boys and girls, newborns through age 18 – and new coats in children’s and adult sizes can be dropped off at any time to the police department at the Stafford Township Municipal Complex, 260 East Bay Ave., Manahawkin, or Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at the Bay Avenue Community Center, 775 East Bay Ave., or the Pine Street Recreation Center, 25 Pine St. Additionally, collection boxes will be set up at local businesses in town.

For those who are not big on shopping for gifts, monetary donations can be made as well. Checks must be made payable to Stafford Township PBA 287 Toy Drive and dropped off to the police department, community center or recreation center.

For more information, call McBrien at 609-597-1000, extension 8573, or Budesa at 609-597-1000, extension 8583. Email inquiries also can be made to or

Helping homeless families through Family Promise of Southern Ocean County also is a great way to give for the upcoming holidays. Family Promise is in need of gift cards – ShopRite, Walmart, Wawa, Kohl’s, etc. – in increments of $25 or $50 that it can distribute to local families in need. Gift cards can be dropped off to Family Promise headquarters at 338 South Main St., Barnegat, of mailed to P.O. Box 926, Barnegat, N.J. 08005. For more information, call 609-994-3317.

Of course, there are other ways to give for the upcoming holidays as well. Multiple food pantries exist locally to help those in need of food, particularly for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Connected to St. Mary’s, the St. Vincent DePaul Society accepts food and monetary donations each weekday from 9 a.m. to noon. Call Marie Dorrey at 609-698-7477 for more information. Also with St. Mary’s, the St. Bernard’s Food for Pets ministry accepts funds and donations of pet food and treats each day from 9 a.m. to noon as well. Call Judy Healey at 609-489-0772 for more information.

The St. Francis food pantry also is need of food and funds as the holidays draw closer. Monetary and food donations can be dropped off at the St. Francis Community Center, 4700 Long Beach Blvd., Brant Beach. Call 609-494-8861, extension 197.

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