The mission of Mercer County-based nonprofit Shine and Inspire is "to give back, and to pay it forward," and although it holds events year-round, those involved with the organization have been giving extra this holiday season -- turning a setback into a triumph.

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During a recent gathering in South Jersey, founder and executive director Carol Feldman was collecting items from members of the organization to be presented as Christmas gifts to needy children at another event this past Sunday. Those presents, however, were soon stolen out of her car, with no surveillance cameras in the area and no signs of forced entry to the vehicle.

Almost immediately, Feldman's friends and colleagues made clear that such a Grinch-like act would not deter them, and pledged to restock her supply with more than enough gifts to go around.

"Even people who had sponsored and had already spent hundreds of dollars said, 'I'll responsor the same child,'" she said.

Feldman filed an insurance claim following the theft and may recoup a portion of the monetary value of the stolen items, but will likely never know who took them. She said any money that is rewarded to her will be reinvested right back into the nonprofit.

"Everybody was just horrified that anybody would do that, and just really hoping that, you know, whoever took (the gifts) made sure they went to a child, because it was all children's things," Feldman said.

The spirit of asking for help when needed, and using that assistance to empower others, is at the heart of Shine and Inspire -- or as Feldman puts it, "If we help you to shine, what will it inspire you to do?" She mentioned a Trenton woman who recently could not pay for a medically-prescribed scooter. Shine and Inspire agreed to pay for the scooter, and in return, the woman ran a summer arts-and-crafts program for 40 children in her building.

Children who benefit from the organization's goodwill are also taught to be thoughtful about what they receive. For instance, each of the gifts given out at Sunday's event came from lists provided by the kids, with one "need" and one "want." But whether it's children or adults, addressing both the needs and wants of the less fortunate remains one of the nonprofit's major goals.

If you are in need of some sort of assistance, or if you would like to get involved with Shine and Inspire, visit

Patrick Lavery is New Jersey 101.5's evening news anchor. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015, email, and listen for his live reports Monday through Thursday nights between 6:30 and 11 p.m.

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