Brookdale students, faculty, staff and administrators came together in support of local families this holiday season, helping collect and distribute nearly 800 holiday presents and gift cards during the 23rd annual Giving Tree program.
The program, hosted by Brookdale’s Employee Volunteer Connection (EVC), connects Brookdalians with underprivileged children and families in Monmouth County and the local organizations that offer them support throughout the holiday season.
Every November EVC members set up holiday trees across the Lincroft and Freehold campuses; on the branches of each tree are cards listing the age, gender and interests of local children who are unlikely to have gifts to open this holiday season.
Employees and students can take a card representing an individual child or an entire family, spending as little or as much as they want on toys, gift cards, clothes or other presents. According to EVC member Helen Vota, this year’s Giving Tree initiative was far and away one of the most successful in the program’s 23-year history.
“It was an overwhelming success,” said Vota. “The Brookdale family is so kind and caring and very generous. They provided us with close to 800 gifts – all beautify wrapped, with colorful ribbons and bows – and all of the little extras, like stockings filled with goodies for each member of the family. We were able to help 30 families in the Monmouth County area because of their kindness and generosity.”
The beautifully wrapped presents are delivered to families by local outreach and support organizations like the Visiting Nurse Association of Central New Jersey, Family and Children’s Services, Brookdale’s Displaced Homemaker Program and St. Joseph’s Church in Keyport.
“For more than 15 years, Brookdale has been the most generous Adopt-a-Family Sponsor for our Christmas gift distribution in the Keyport/Matawan area,” said Joan Kautsky, a volunteer with St. Vincent de Paul Society at St. Joseph Church.
“Helen Vota coordinates this effort efficiently, seeing that children’s wish lists are considered and making the process effortless for us. This year, Brookdale provided gifts for nine families, including 29 children. We are deeply touched when we pick up carloads of wrapped gifts at Brookdale. Our St. Vincent de Paul Conference adds Christmas food baskets to this, ensuring that these families will have a wonderful holiday. Thank you, Brookdale.”
In addition to the gifts, the initiative also raised more than $3,000 in donations to support local families.
The Giving Tree program is just one of many community service initiatives sponsored by the EVC each year, including annual backpack and school supply drives and the ever-popular Empty Bowls program each the spring.
“This year, most of our tags were gone by the third day,” said Vota. “The Brookdale community is made up of some really wonderful people who want to give back and share what they have with others who are in need. We have many departments who take whole families and bring back an unbelievable amount of gifts. It is a Brookdale tradition and it shows Monmouth County that we care about our community and we want to contribute and help others to make it a better place to live. This project brings out the best in everyone.”
To learn more about the EVC or to get involved, contact Helen Vota.