Giving Back

Sharing is Caring: Summit's Central Presbyterian Church Brings Holiday Joy to Victims of Domestic Violence

Rev. Deborah Huggins, supervising social worker Kristin Pleines, Leah Griffith, Meredith Robertson, Pam Robertson, Jenny Fosgate with the 300 gifts for the Sarah Burke House. Credits: Reverend Deborah Huggins

SUMMIT, NJ - Seventy-five children in the Bronx and their moms have escaped the trauma of domestic violence and are living in a secret location. The youth at Central Presbyterian Church in Summit are making sure that Santa will visit them this Christmas.

As part of the Church’s 'Sharing Tree' mission, the Summit teens have partnered with the Sarah Burke House, New York State’s largest transitional domestic violence shelter, to bring the joy of Christmas to the 58 families in residence this holiday season.

More than 300 gifts and gift-cards have been collected through the efforts of those at Central Church. Many of these gifts will be delivered to the shelter, where the residents will attend a “Santa’s Workshop” to sort the gifts that will be given to their families, according to Kristin Pleines, LCSW, a supervising social worker at the Sarah Burke House. During the shelter’s holiday party, a festive meal is served, and Santa attends to distribute some of the donated gifts and pose for photos. Other gifts are given by the mothers directly to their children.

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The 'Sharing Tree' is a major mission of the Family Ministry at Central Church. Middle school and high school youth create gift-request  ornaments to hang on the church Christmas Tree, and members take the ornaments and purchase the gifts and grocery-cards.

Teens arrange group shopping trips using their own money to supply a number of the requests.  Even the fourth and fifth graders get involved with the sorting of the gifts, which are delivered into the Bronx by volunteers as well.

“We have been so lucky to be a part of the 'Holiday Sharing Tree' for the last several years. Spending the holidays in the shelter system is not easy for our clients, and Central’s kindness and generosity helps to ease that burden at a difficult time. Thanks to the teens in Summit for helping to make the holidays brighter for our clients!” said Pleines.

A portion of the gifts collected will be given to Central’s sister church, Nuevas Fronteras in Plainfield, and to Summit residents in need.

Central Presbyterian Church is located at 70 Maple Street in Summit. For more information, visit

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