Wednesday, April 01

Brookdale Newsroom

Giving Trees Return to Brookdale

One of Brookdale’s longest-running holiday traditions has returned to the Lincroft and Freehold campuses, but it won’t last very long.

From now through Nov. 30, Brookdale community members can help spread holiday cheer to dozens of underprivileged Monmouth County families by visiting one of four Giving Trees on display in Larrison Hall, the Scroll & Pen bookstore, the Fitness Center and the Freehold campus lobby.

The trees, assembled by members of Brookdale’s Employee Volunteer Connection (EVC), hold cards that describe the age, gender and interests of local boys and girls who are likely to have no gifts to open this holiday season.

Brookdale employees and students can select a card representing a single child or an entire family, spending as little or as much as they want on toys, gift cards, clothes or other gifts.

“You can contribute whatever you are comfortable with. It all makes a big difference,” said EVC member Helen Vota, who first established the Giving Tree program at Brookdale more than 20 years ago.

“To a kid, a $10 gift certificate for Walmart is like the best thing ever. They would have a ball going to the store and being able to pick out whatever they want.”

Each year the Brookdale Giving Trees help provide more than 500 gifts to dozens of local families, each of whom are personally recommended by Monmouth County outreach and support organizations like the Visiting Nurse Association of Central New Jersey.

The program also provides clothes, toiletries and other essentials for the children’s parents, who are often struggling to afford housing and utilities and would never consider buying a gift for themselves, Vota said.

“We make sure every child has three gifts, but we want the parents to have something to open as well,” she said. “It’s important to the kids. Even if they have a present, they don’t want to see their parents with nothing.”

Even after 22 years as coordinator of the Giving Tree program, Vota said she is still surprised at the level of support she sees each holiday season from members of the Brookdale community. And she is still fulfilled, she said, by the thought of making the holidays just a little bit brighter for the residents of Monmouth County.

“It’s very heartwarming to see,” she said. “And it’s good for the community to see. It shows them that people really care. And we do. We do care.”

To learn more about the Giving Tree program or the Employee Volunteer Connection, contact Helen Vota.