Hundreds of Monmouth County families enjoyed a brighter holiday season this year, thanks to area businesses, organizations and individuals who partnered with Family & Children’s Service (FCS) to support the agency’s annual toy drive, Operation Sleighbells. The program, which traces its roots back to the agency’s founding in 1909, provided thousands of donated toys, books, coats, pajamas and infant necessities to more than 1,700 local children in need, including 400 children served by child protection programs in central and southern Monmouth County. Dozens of volunteers helped collect, sort, and distribute the gifts in the two weeks leading up to the holidays.
“It’s quite an operation,” FCS board chair Deborah Zilai explained. “It’s really rewarding to see all the things that the community has done to support their neighbors in need.”
Operation Sleighbells, is different from other toy drives in that it addresses the specific wishes of each participating child. Families are asked to provide the ages, sizes and needs of the children in their care. Donors are then asked to fulfill the requests, either individually or by sponsoring an entire family.
Mothers like Aleece Harris. Aleece recently lost her job and is being helped by the program this year. She hopes to one day pay it forward. “I can’t wait to be able to get myself together to help others and hopefully be able to donate next year.”
FCS director of Volunteer Services Samantha White credited one of this year’s FCS Leading Lights Gala honorees, Monmouth Park, for another successful drive. For the fourth consecutive year, the Oceanport racetrack donated 10,000 square feet of space needed to store, sort and distribute the thousands of donated gifts. White says that without the off-site location, FCS would be forced to reduce the number of families it serves.
This year, along with the many individual families who signed up to donate, more than 100 businesses and organizations also participated, including companies like Stop & Shop, whose employees adopted 50 families; the Colts Neck police, who donated funds to purchase 15 bikes; and Village Elementary School in Holmdel whose students, teachers and families fulfilled the individual wishes of more than 600 children in need.
Other contributors included: The Atlantic Club, Atlantis Prep, Beach Front North Day Book Club, Best Buy, Brookdale Community College, Brookdale Public Radio, CCMSI, Cobham, Coffee Corral, Colonial Terrace, Colts Neck Police Department and PBA 333, Colts Neck Flag Football, Commvault, CRA, Curchin Group, Daisy Troop 60527, Dittmar Agency, Diversant, Dugan Elementary School, Eatontown Police and PBA 305, Endoscopy Center of Red Bank, Family First Urgent Care, First Financial Credit Union, Fords Middle School, Fragomen Worldwide, Freehold Hyundai, French & Parello Associates, Fusion Recruiting Las, Gap, Garden State Skating Club, Gloria Nilson & Co., Haircrafters Salon, Hikma Pharmaceuticals, Howell High School Rebel Football, HUB International Northeast, InSite Engineering, Interworld Highway, Investors Savings Bank, Jersey Shore Women’s Club, JGS Insurance, John I Dawes Early Learning Center, Lightbridge Academy, Little Chief Learning Station, Little Silver Animal Hospital, Loscalzo Institute, Man & Woman of the Year, Marlboro Elementary School, Menlo Park Mall, the Molly Pitcher Stichers, Monmouth Medical Center Foundation, Monmouth University, Monmouth University PA Program, Moser Taboada, Natural Health Care Center, Neptune NJ ROTC, Nestlé, New Jersey Department of Labor, Noontime Optimist Club of Freehold, Ocean Pointe Realtors, Old Bridge Dental, Plucks Hair Cutting, Port Jersey Logistics, Prodigy Sports, Relentless Fitness and Training, Revenue Guard, Ridge Realty, RMB, Robert Half, Rumson Country Day School, Rumson Public Works, RFH Psychology Club, Single Throw Internet Marketing, Spiezle Group Inc., Studio 455, Tandem Cycle, The Pilates Project, Toms River Girl Scouts, Trinity Solar, Victor Zando Foundation, Wall Township Girl Scouts, Warshauer Electric, West Freehold School, West Long Branch EMS, and Women’s Club Manasquan.
To learn more about Sleighbells and how you can get involved next year, email FCS Director of Volunteer Services Samantha White at email@example.com