Operation Sleighbells Under Way

Operation Sleighbells Under WayLONG BRANCH, NJ, November 11, 2010 – For more than 100 years, the Family & Children’s Service (FCS) Operation Sleighbells program has been granting holiday wishes for thousands of children throughout Monmouth County.

The annual holiday gift-giving drive, which began in 1909, seeks to fulfill the wishes of nearly 2,600 children and their families this year by collecting donations of new toys, books, clothing and other needed items, and distribute them in time for the holidays.

FCS President and CEO Vincent D’Elia said the agency grew out of the very first Operation Sleighbells effort, when a group of Long Branch citizens decided to provide holiday gifts of food, coal, clothes and toys to impoverished children and their families.

Then, just as now, the program relied on the community’s support to succeed.

This year, Operation Sleighbells received an additional boost from Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch. The hospital donated space on its Long Branch campus to serve as Operation Sleighbells’ 2010 headquarters. The new space will give FCS volunteers and staff a safe, heated environment in which to sort, pack and distribute the many donated items.

Unlike many other holiday gift-giving programs, Operation Sleighbells addresses the specific wishes of every child. Families are interviewed and the agency is given a list of the ages, sizes and needs of each child.

FCS Manager of Volunteer Services Samantha White said the prolonged recession has resulted in a spike of requests for support.

“Since late August, we have fielded more than 400 calls from parents and custodial grandparents who want their children to be included in this year’s drive,” said White. “We’re hopeful we will find an equal number of families and individuals who are willing to help.”

Ways to contribute include: “adopting” a family; donating toys, gifts and clothing for the children or gift cards for some of the older teens; and volunteering to sort and pack gifts.

In addition, FCS is conducting a holiday coat drive, where they are looking for donations of coats of all sizes in good condition for men, women and children. For more information about Operation Sleighbells and how you can help, contact the agency at 732-222-9111.

For more than 100 years, FCS has served Monmouth County helping countless people learn, grow, feel, age and live better.

For more information about FCS or to learn how you can make a difference for those in need, visit www.fcsmonmmouth. org.