SUMMIT, NJ- While many people receive gifts on Christmas and Hanukkah, there are thousands of children who, because of their economic circumstances, do not. In keeping with the holiday spirit of giving, the non-profit organization, the Santa Claus Shop, held their annual Holiday Luncheon for seniors at the Vito A Gallo building this afternoon.

The purpose of the Santa Claus Shop is to give local families and seniors the opportunity to give children Christmas gifts they cannot afford.  On Tuesday, they will hold their big event of the year at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Summit, where more than 500 low-income families and senior citizens from Summit, New Providence and Berkeley Heights, who are referred by local social service agents, are able to select gifts for family members at no charge.

Committee member Jenna Smith said many of the seniors used to shop at the church for gifts, but a few years ago the organization decided it would be more convenient for them to have a luncheon the day before.  About 100 people attended the event and were served cookies, cheese, coffee water and snacks.  Attendees were given a choice of a gift card to ShopRite or a book of stamps.   

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“They look forward to this so much,” Smith said.

Pat Ammaturo, who has lived locally for nine years, said she is extremely grateful for what the women did.

“It’s the greatest place to live for senior citizens,” Ammaturo said. “It’s a lovely time to get together.”

Eli Barak and his wife Rhonda have lived here for five years and have enjoyed their time. Eli said in the winter the facility gets very quiet because many people stay inside, so the luncheon is a nice change of pace. Occasions like this really make everyone happy, he said.

 “It’s fantastic that we all get to be together,” he said.

Resident John McLoughlin, who attended the luncheon the past few years, said he wanted to thank the Santa Claus Shop for their generosity. He also expressed his gratitude towards churches in the community.

“I want to thank the church for what they have done for us,” he said. “We appreciate all the churches and what they’re doing.”