Holiday Guide

No Shortage of Ways to Give to Others for the Holidays

Nov 10, 2017

So, maybe you’re an individual who’s not too interested in getting gifts for Christmas, but instead would rather give to those who don’t have much. Well, that’s a good thing, and several big opportunities are available.

For more than 30 years, the Stafford Township Recreation Department, in partnership with PBA Local 297, has been coordinating efforts to make sure local youngsters have gifts for Christmas and warm coats for the winter through the annual Holiday Toy Drive and the Stafford Cares For Kids Winter Coat Drive. But while local children and youth certainly will benefit from these colossal efforts, this year’s reach is going a bit farther south as well.

“When we sent supplies down to Texas after Hurricane Harvey, Joe Mangino made contact with several organizations, and we know there are a lot of kids down there whose lives were turned upside down,” said Jennifer McBrien, who coordinates the rec department’s efforts alongside Deb Budesa. “When Sandy hit, so many people rushed to help out here, and we received a lot of things so kids around here could still have a Christmas and a coat for the winter. So we want to give back to those affected now, and we’re definitely going to send some boxes with toys and coats.”

The annual Toy Drive began on Nov. 6 ,and gifts are collected through Friday, Dec. 15. And there’s no such thing as having too much.

“Let’s flood the doors of the community center,” McBrien said. “This year, Hatchimals seem to be a big deal. American Girl and Barbie dolls for the girls are always big, along with LEGOs and anything Nerf for the boys. But every gift matters, and we need lot because the need is extraordinary.”

The PBA and Recreation Department are looking for new, unwrapped gifts for boys and girls, newborn through age 18. Toys and age-appropriate items such as craft sets, clothing and accessories, movie tickets, gift cards and certificates are appreciated. Coats for all ages (newborns to 18) and sizes (infant to extra large) are needed as well.

“We’re really in need of new coats, even more so than the need for toys,” McBrien said. “We received a lot of coats last year, but we’re always coming across kids who need a coat, even after Christmas. 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.”

Anything for both the Toy Drive and Coat Drive can be dropped off at any time to the police department at the Stafford Township Municipal Building, 260 East Bay Ave., Manahawkin, or Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at the Bay Avenue Community Center, 775 East Bay Ave. Also, be on the lookout for collection boxes at business locations throughout Stafford Township.

And for those who are not big on shopping for gifts, monetary donations can be made as well. Checks must be made out to Stafford Township PBA 297 Toy Drive.

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

If you’re more inclined toward donating gifts to an organization with a bit wider reach locally, you can give to the Toy Run Foundation, which each year helps several hundred families throughout Southern Ocean County.

“The Motorcycle Toy Run went really well this year,” said Christina Jarin, who along with her husband, Dennis, and Lou Serrao has been coordinating the efforts of the foundation for the past 18 years. “We had almost 600 show up for the Toy Run and raised about 750 toys that day. It turned out great.”

However, that’s a drop in the bucket compared to the need the foundation ultimately will fill.

“By the time we’re done and give out the gifts on Dec. 16, we’re going to be giving out between 2,000 and 3,000 gifts,” Jarin said. “And, unfortunately, we don’t typically get a lot of gifts for teenagers, so we’re always in desperate need of gifts for that 13-to-18 age group.”

Jarin said each child on their list may receive three to five gifts each, and they’re doled out at the St. Mary’s Parish Center in Manahawkin on one day in mid-December, department-store style.

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 recommended skateboards, sports equipment, wallets, sports team apparel, men’s electric razors, and deodorant and cologne sets.

Items may be dropped off at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, 747 West Bay Ave., Barnegat, through the morning of Friday, Dec. 15, or at St. Mary’s Parish Center, 100 Bishop Way, Manahawkin, on Dec. 15, after 4 p.m. Also, the Toy Run Foundation plans to have donation boxes located at various businesses throughout Waretown, Barnegat and Manahawkin during the coming weeks, so be on the lookout for those.

For more information about the Toy Run Foundation and its toy drive, find the foundation on Facebook, visit the website, or call Dennis Jarin at 609-290-0587.

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, or 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 St. Francis Community Center, 4700 Long Beach Blvd., Brant Beach. Call 609-494-8861, extension 197.

David Biggy

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