Jersey City Toy Drive Spreads Holiday Cheer at City Hall
Holiday cheer was in the air on Friday, December 3 at Jersey City’s City Hall for the city’s 25th Annual Toy Drive, as local families received toys to kick off the holiday season early.
During the event, which was hosted by Mayor Fulop, city employees and members of the community volunteered their time to distribute toys to over 1,600 families in need, the highest number of recipients in the toy drive’s history. Toys were available to local children aged 12 years and younger.
Throughout City Hall Chambers there was a festive atmosphere, as holiday music played and families snapped photos with Santa & Mrs. Claus after receiving their gifts. Piles of colorfully wrapped presents and a screen playing holiday movies served as the backdrop, and under one of the glittering Christmas trees sat a mountainous stack of 100 scooters – a last minute delivery that arrived just in the nick of time that very morning from a generous donor, the Exchange Place Alliance Special Improvement District. The Exchange Place Alliance SID was the largest donor this year, also providing 200 tablets for the event.
Judi Reilly, Director of Jersey City’s Resident Response Center, has been involved in planning the toy drive for the last 18 years. She shared that typically, planning for the toy drive starts about two months ahead of time, and families can register to participate just before Thanksgiving.
However, Reilly said preparations started earlier this year because they knew that there was more of a demand than in years past. “We had an unprecedented need, and the donors really came through,” she said.
Leading up to the toy drive, Jersey City residents wishing to donate were able to bring new, unwrapped toys directly to the Resident Response Center’s office at City Hall. For those unable to come in person, they also offered an Amazon wishlist to allow people to purchase items to donate.
According to the Mayor’s Facebook page, the city raised close to $100,000 through a combination of toys and monetary donations, which were used to purchase additional toys to meet the demand.
Joseph Martinez, a city employee who had volunteered with the 2019 toy drive, but didn’t participate in 2020 due to COVID, said that this year felt like a “welcoming back”, a sentiment echoed by several families that we spoke with.
Many said that they had missed last year’s drive, and were especially happy to be able to return for the event in 2021. Others were there for the first time. Resident Deanna Bass shared that she had found out about the event this year from a city employee and that her son, Tejon, was very happy to be there. “I just want to thank everybody. My baby is having fun…as long as [he’s] happy, I’m happy!” she said.
For anyone in need who missed the toy drive, Christine Goodman, Director of the Office of Cultural Affairs, said that families can reach out to the Office of Cultural Affairs or the Resident Response Center to receive information about other toy drives happening in the area.
Goodman also shared that “this year, there [were] a lot of generous donors that came through…It’s well beyond one person or one team. It is a whole community really coming together to really make it special for the kids, and at the end of the day, that’s what matters, and that’s what makes it such a joy to do.”
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