For the 31st straight year, Linden native Joseph Sarica will host a charity event to collect gifts for underprivileged kids.

Flickr user The Lamb Family

The Children's Christmas Party was something that spawned from a family tragedy, following the tragic death of Sarica's niece in a drowning accident. Knowing the holidays would especially tough, the family organized a dinner to thank family, friends and residents for their support during the rough stretch.

"I came up with the idea everybody bring a gift for an underprivileged kid, which kind of rolled a bad situation into something good," Sarica said.

That original thought has held up for over three decades with the event growing annually through word-of-mouth.

"Everybody does their part and everybody sacrifices a little, and we get the thing done every year," he said.

Roughly 350 people attend the charity event, which features a full catered meal and music from Barbara Harris, of the 60's girl group The Toys. Attendees are asked to bring a wrapped present, which are then distributed to charitable foundations around Union and Essex County.

This year's dinner takes place on Saturday, December 14th at the Linden Knights of Columbus from 7:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Tickets are $30.

Sarica estimates that thousands of gifts have been collected and donated over the years. He has also watched as the children of the organizers have begun to take an active role in keeping the yearly tradition alive.

"My goal is for those guys to take it over and run it another thirty years," he said. "If we can turn this over to the next generation and keep the thing going, I think it would be a beautiful thing,"

Only a limited of slots remain available for this year's dinner. Find out more on availability and how you can help by reaching Joe Sarica at (908) 862-3824.

More Good News

Lakeland Bank

Lakeland Bank locations throughout New Jersey are participating in the company's Share-A-Gift annual tradition of partnering with local charities to collect gifts for those in need.

Under the program, each branch will select a community related charity to work with and decorate a tree with special ornaments that have details about a gift recipient on them that are in need of some extra help this season.

Customers can participate by taking an ornament and return to the branch with a gift for the individual described on the ornament tag. Last season, Lakeland Bank collected more than 1,400 gifts for charities such as St. Peter's Orphanage, Toys for Toys and Knights of Columbus.

United Way of Ocean County

The United Way of Ocean County (UWOC) has made it easier for Ocean County residents to get involved. A new Online Volunteer Center is now available giving residents one central location to register and receive volunteer opportunities to dedicate their time and talents to.

The Online Volunteer Center is accessible from the organization's website. In addition, UWOC has invited their partner agencies to join the Online Volunteer Center to display their upcoming openings.