BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - With the holiday season upon us, people are in the giving spirit and many hold charity events for different groups and causes. Berkley Heights resident Luisa Grossman and her family started the Appalachian Toy Drive 18 years ago and it has continued to grow each year.
When she and her husband attended graduate school at Seton Hall University, he met someone in the campus ministry who was involved in an organization that assisted poverty stricken people in the Appalachian section of West Virginia. Her husband eventually took a trip there and saw the true depths of the poverty. He and his team helped rebuild homes.
Grossman said there were several residences without indoor plumbing or electricity when he went 20 years ago. The college kids who took the trip were surprised at what they saw, she said. The people there live in a different type of poverty compared to certain urban areas in New Jersey, she added.
“They were shocked," she said. "It was quite an eye opener.”
She said they realized how much they take simple things like running water and heat for granted, so 18 years ago they started the toy drive. Since its inception, co-workers, teachers, classmates, family members and members of Boy and Girl Scout troops have all participated.
Her 12-year-old son Alton has helped run the drive with Troop 68 for several years and Troop 368 in Berkeley Heights assists as well. This year, he took the initiative and created a movie night, where all of the proceeds will go towards buying new toys.
“I definitely think that people should know about the drive,” he said. “This is all going towards a great cause.”
On Friday Dec. 7, they will be screening “Elf” at the Berkeley Heights Recreation Center at 6:30 p.m. and pizza and snacks will be sold. Each person is asked to bring a new toy.
The drive started on Nov. 19 and concludes Dec. 17 and people can drop toys at off at the Grossman home or Monday evenings from 7:30 p.m. - 9 p.m. at the Mary Kay McMillan School. Looking ahead to the future, Alton said he hopes to take a trip to West Virginia when he is older.