Myriad Ways to Give During Holiday Season and Beyond

Organizations Offer Ways to Help Homeless, Hungry, Community at Large
Dec 06, 2017
File Photo by: Jack Reynolds Soroptimist International of LBI’s “Suit Up for Success” shop, normally located at 25 Pine St. in Manahawkin, is currently closed for renovations until spring, but is always in need of gently used women’s clothing for the purpose of outfitting women in need of ensembles for job interviews and business/casual/ workplace appropriate attire

While many may be feeling extra giving of their time and other resources around the holidays, they may not know where or how to be of service if they’re unaware of volunteer opportunities in the local community. One way to fix that is to attend this Friday morning’s talk at Stockton at Manahawkin, titled “Do Good, Feel Good,” presented by the program staff of St. Francis Community Center in Brant Beach. The free one-hour workshop, starting at 10 a.m., will provide information on how to get involved and give back in the community with volunteer opportunities throughout Ocean County. The Stockton facility is located at 712 East Bay Ave. Call 609-626-3883 to register.

Here are some other volunteering options to consider.

No matter the skill, it can be put to good use at Surflight Theatre in Beach Haven. According to Gail Anderson, production manager and associate artistic/casting/press director, the theatre needs a few good men and women for ushers and concessions; costume and scene shops; spotlight and backstage crew work; set striking and general facility assistance; cooking and covered dish contributions; and contracting jobs.

During MainStage shows and concerts, ushers and concessions volunteers must commit to at least two performances during a run of a show, arrive approximately an hour before curtain and stay through the end of intermission and until cleaned up. They can watch the show if seats are available. Need is from May through the New Year.

Also throughout the season, anyone with basic to advanced sewing skills may volunteer in the costume shop, where the hours are very flexible and projects may be taken home. Laundry, ironing, steaming, alterations and organizing are also part of costume shop volunteering. Likewise, anyone with basic to advanced handyman/carpentry/welding skills may volunteer in the scene shop.

From June to December, some muscle is needed for disassembling, carrying and moving set parts and prop pieces at the close of a show. “Many hands make light work,” Anderson noted.

Year ’round, she continued, the facility is in constant need of interior and exterior painting, minor to major carpentry repair work and household projects, spackling, gardening and more. All levels of tasks are available for Girl/Boy scout troops, retirees, and “anyone who just wants to lend a hand to help us keep our building up and get it ready for all of our audiences, artistic and technical personnel and designers.”

During the season, Surflight has several casual potluck-style dinners. Every Wednesday in the summer, for example, dinner is provided for the cast and crew of that day’s Children’s Theatre production, as rehearsal goes right up until opening at 6 p.m. All donated food can be homemade or purchased prepared, she said.

Additionally, because the theater’s housing units and appliances take constant hard use, the organization welcomes donations of new or almost-new cabinets, kitchens, toilets, washing machines and other appliances that have been removed from other Island properties to make room for upgrades. Also needed are miscellaneous hardware, lumber, tools and paint.

Running spotlight and other backstage crew work is a pretty big commitment, appropriate for teens and adults, that counts toward service hours.

If interested in any of the above opportunities, email and write “volunteer” in the subject line.

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The community theater organization Our Gang Players has opportunities to volunteer all year long, according to Assistant Artistic Director Stacey Schnepp-Stoops. “We are always looking for people to help out at our shows to usher and help in the lobby, set construction and painting, costuming and sewing, musicians and other technical areas if you have the knowledge and skill.

“We are especially looking for help with marketing and advertising as well as fundraising.”

Anyone interested may contact founder Sherry Schnepp at 609-597-0553 or, or Schnepp-Stoops at 609-384-1649 or

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St. Francis Parish and Community Center has many ongoing volunteer opportunities in the areas of special events, senior and general services, family support services, counseling, recreation and parish activities. In some instances, a background check is required. To cite recent examples, Lori Dudek said the Christmas Craft Show in November used a total of 23 volunteers for a total of 72 hours; in October, the St. Francis Food Pantry had a total of 56 volunteers work 723 hours; the St. Francis Parish Festival of the Sea carnival used over 260 volunteers, ages 13 and older, for those five days in August.

The volunteer application is online at or at the front desk of the Community Center.

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Family Promise of Southern Ocean County, an affiliate of Family Promise National, is proud to be part of a nationwide effort to help children and families who are homeless regain their sustainable independence, according to Office Coordinator Theresa Roberts.

Family Promise of Southern Ocean County started in 2009. Since January of 2017 it has served over 300 men, women and children in our families. This is done through a partnership of over 25 local congregations and community groups that involves over 250 volunteers. Because of the extent of in-kind contributions, Family Promise of Southern Ocean County is able to help families despite a very low budget, while at the same time building community between its volunteers and the families served in the program.

Begun as a local effort to address the crisis of family homelessness, Family Promise works on the principle that the elements to help children and their families (who make up 40 percent of all people who are homeless) are already in the community. The program brings together houses of worship to provide temporary homes, facilities to provide space during the day for case management and, most important, thousands of volunteers who, by sharing a few hours of their time, enable families to turn their lives around.

Volunteer opportunities include: special events helper, to assist with fundraising events throughout the year; childcare helper, to organize activities for children at the day center at scheduled times, and to assist parents when they have appointments; office helper, to answer phones and do light typing and computer tasks; committee member, serving on the fundraising, public relations, congregational/community outreach committees; handyperson, to provide light maintenance and repairs at day center as needed; donor, to provide monetary gifts or gift cards for families for gas, groceries or clothing, or to provide needed items such as food and paper goods; hosts for a week, or overnight, or for dinner and evening time; volunteers for meal preparation, Sunday afternoon setup (beds, tables, room dividers), weekly laundry of sheets, blankets and towels; doctor/nurse on call; recreational activities organizer.

To find a job best suited, call Roberts at 609-994-3317.

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At St. Mary’s Parish Center in Manahawkin, the Rua family puts on an annual Christmas Day dinner, free of charge and open to those in need of nourishment for the body and spirit on Christmas Day.

Leading up to the event, “We are looking for people to donate non-perishable food items, especially cereal and peanut butter and jelly,” Elizabeth Rua said. “Many kids go hungry when they are out of school and not getting a school-supplied lunch or breakfast. We are also looking for new hats, gloves and scarves for kids, teens and adults and new fleece blankets for the elderly.”

On Christmas Day, volunteers are sought to serve food, distribute hats, gloves and scarves, visit with the guests and spread good cheer. To learn more, call 609-978-6508.

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At the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences in Loveladies, “Things are pretty low-key at this time of year, but of course extra help is always great,” according to Special Events Coordinator Lydia Owens. “We could always use helping hands at events. We not only need the help, but the events are always the most fun in terms of volunteering at LBIF.”

The next big upcoming event is Deep Freeze Fest, on Friday, Jan. 26, when the main gallery will be transformed into a cozy ski lodge setting with live music, pretzels and snacks from local establishments, and cold brews. The volunteering job will entail helping to set up tables, chairs, equipment, food, etc. in the late afternoon and early evening. Separately, a good cleanup/ breakdown crew is needed to help after the event.


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Soroptimist International of LBI’s “Suit Up for Success” shop, normally located at 25 Pine St. in Manahawkin, is currently closed for renovations until spring, but is always in need of gently used women’s clothing for the purpose of outfitting women in need of ensembles for job interviews and business/casual/ workplace appropriate attire. Donations will be accepted again when the shop reopens in the spring.

Volunteers who run the shop come from the Soroptimist organization, friends of members, and Heritage Point Women’s Club. Call Madelyn Pietrucha at 609-276-3308.

— Victoria Ford

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