NEW BRUNSWICK, N. J. - It's a time-honored tradition for kids to wake up on Christmas morning and race with breathless anticipation to the Christmas tree to see what gifts Santa Claus has left them.
For Destiny Funderburk-Pittman and the other members of Young Divas With Purpose, their hearts were also filled this holiday season with the joy of giving.
She and the other members of the nonprofit program for girls 6-18 held their annual toy giveaway a few weeks before Christmas.
They turned the Hampton Condo Clubhouse near Van Dyke Avenue into a winter wonderland one rainy Saturday afternoon.
There were crafts, snacks, music and, of course, piles of wrapped gifts.
Anyone from the community was welcome to come in, have some gingerbread cookies and play musical chairs or some other game.
Each left with a gift, be it a doll, a puzzle, a coat or something else.
Funderburk-Pittman and her fellow Divas purchased the gifts, wrapped them and brought them to the clubhouse to hand out. In all, the Divas had about 200 gifts to give away.
Funderburk-Pittman said she and the other Divas realize that for some kids, this might be the only give they receive this Christmas.
"It feels good to give and to know that everyone you gave to has a happy feeling," she said. "They're not going to feel like, 'Oh, I didn't get any presents.'"
Donna Jones, the director of Young Divas with Purpose, said their group has a powerful message for the girls. For more than 10 years now, they have come from New Brunswick, Trenton, Newark and other parts of the state in a journey to find spirituality and self-esteem. Each girl is then taught how to take that and use it to make a difference in their communities, their churches, their families, their world.
Although the Divas bought enough gifts for all the kids who stopped by that afternoon, they know the gifts will have special meaning to families who are struggling this Christmastime.
"But," Jones said, "I think just everyone is struggling at about this time of year. Everything is a stretch these days. However, we can to help and bless, we feel grateful. We want to teach the kids to give back, too. They look forward to it every year."
Funderburk-Pittman, who has been accepted to two colleges and is hoping to study to become a nurse, saved up money from an afterschool job to pay for some of the gifts.
It's all worth it, she said, when she sees some of their reactions.
"Giving out the presents, we get a lot of smiles," she said.
For more information about Young Divas With Purpose, visit their Facebook page.