Brookdale Community College students and employees rallied together in support of local families this holiday season, collecting and donating 500 gifts and more than $5,000 as part of the college’s 24th annual Giving Tree program.
The initiative, organized by Brookdale’s Employee Volunteer Connection (EVC) and held from Nov. 13 to Nov. 30, allowed students, employees and college departments to sponsor individual children and local families who were unlikely to have gifts to open during the holidays.
“I continue to be amazed every year at the outpouring of love, kindness and generosity for this program,” said EVC member and Brookdale accounting specialist Helen Vota. “Our students and staff do not just shop for a gift, they put so much time and effort into each person and include so many nice extras and then wrap it all up so beautifully. This is a project that everyone looks forward to every year.”
Holiday trees were set up on Brookdale’s campuses in Lincroft, Freehold and Wall, where participants could select a tag bearing the age, gender and interests of a local child in need. Students and employees then purchased and wrapped gifts for each child, delivering them through a variety of local nonprofit organizations.
This year’s program supported children and families served by the Visiting Nurse Association of Central New Jersey, Family and Children’s Services, St. Joseph’s Church in Keyport and Brookdale’s Displaced Homemaker Program.
“The Brookdale Giving Tree is a generous partner organization that helps us to change people’s lives,” said Displaced Homemaker Services director Laurie Salka, who helped the organization provide gifts to five clients and their families.
“Without it, many of our clients and their families would not have access to holiday gifts. The moms are always humbled when we tell them that they also will be recipients, as well as their children. We are thrilled to be able to provide this service to our clients.”
In total, the Giving Tree program collected and donated 400 wrapped presents and more than 100 gift cards to local children and families. Private donors also contributed funds. The initiative was co-chaired by Vota and Brookdale administrative assistant Ann Marie Alfieri.
“It was so heartwarming to see all the beautifully wrapped gifts knowing that it will bring such happiness to the families involved,” said Alfieri. “On behalf of Helen and myself, we want to thank all those who donated gifts, gift cards and money, and all those that spent their time shopping, wrapping and organizing the gifts.”
The Brookdale Employee Volunteer Connection, established in 1995, includes more than 100 college faculty, staff and administrator who work to rally support and resources for local residents and nonprofits each year. Annual EVC initiatives include the Empty Bowls program, which supports local food pantries and charities, and Project Backpack, which collects school supplies for local children.
To learn how to participate in the Employee Volunteer Connection, contact Helen Vota.