SUMMIT, NJ - On Tuesday, Dec. 4, hundreds of families from Union County received their holiday gifts early as the Santa Claus Shop held their 46th annual event at the St. John's Lutheran Church in Summit.
The Santa Claus Shop serves more than 500 low-income families and senior citizens from Summit, New Providence and Berkeley Heights, who are referred by local social service agents. The families shop and can select a household item, new clothing for each person, and a toy and book for each child. Gift wrapping is also available.
It was chaired by Summit residents, Victoria Carrigan, Amy D’Andrea, Key Michel and Katrina Walsh, and co-chaired by Stacie Collins, Carrie Fallon, Beth Little and Jenna Smith. All of the women began as volunteers and became co- chairs and then chairs.
D’Andrea, who volunteered with the organization for many years, said being part of something like this is amazing.
“It’s really other people telling us that it’s really a wonderful event to work on,” she said.
They begin preparations in the summer and in the fall hold a few toy drives, a hat and mitten drive at the schools in Summit. In November the women go to Wal-Mart and purchase hundreds of clothes and household items. Wal-Mart holds all of the merchandise purchased until the Sunday before the event, to make things easy for them.
The majority of the items were donated by businesses and individuals from the community including the Toy Professor, which held an event recently where the store gave 10 percent of the proceeds to the Santa Claus Shop.
Approximately 300 low income families attended the event, which began at 9 a.m. and ended at 7 p.m. It was first-come, first-serve and each family was assisted by a volunteer. The Santa Claus Shop provided breakfast and lunch for them, as well.
“It’s extremely moving and touching. That’s why we do it,” D'Andrea said. “It’s awesome.”
She told The Alternative Press that seeing the people's faces light up with joy and excitement is really what this is all about. Being able to interact with recipients and see how much it means to them makes all of the work worthwhile, she said.
“All of them are lovely and very appreciative,” she added.