Ocean County Charity Continues Tradition of Giving [AUDIO]
Christmas is very special holiday for one Ocean County Community, where school staffers, residents, first responders and local business leaders spend weeks acting like Santa's little helpers.
For 30 years, hundreds of volunteers have donated, shopped and wrapped gifts for 'Kevin's Kids,' an annual tradition of giving a wide range of items to cash-strapped Manchester Township families with children.
"It's a Christmas drive, but we try to provide food, toys and clothing to well...we're expecting around 400 of our Manchester Township kids," Founder Kevin Burger said.
In a written statement, organizers say the 'Kevin's Kids' tradition was inspired in the Manchester Township School District when a teacher asked her class, "What is Santa Claus going to bring you on Christmas Eve?"
One of the students responded, "Santa Claus never comes to my house."
That year, a few teachers began a drive to help the boy and his family, as well as a handful of other families in the district, according to their press release.
The drive has grown to reach all corners of Manchester and beyond. Burger said senior communities are fully involved, as well as the law enforcement community.
Nikki Mazur, the 2013 Driver Coordinator and Manchester Elementary School's Vice Principal, said they really depend on word of mouth too.
"So, for example, we have a few businesses in one of the neighboring communities step forward this week and say 'how can I help?'" she said. "And they have giving trees and have come up with some donations for us."
The magic happens on the weekend of December 14th and 15th.
"I will have literally hundreds of volunteers that includes our teachers, our bus drivers, our administrators to just come and help and spend an entire weekend getting this all together for us," Burger said.
However, even parents with few resources have a hard time accepting gifts and donations from strangers. So, that Sunday evening, after all the items are packaged and wrapped, volunteers are sent away and parents are invited to come to the Manchester High School Gym. They pick up the gifts with instructions that they came from Santa and they're not to be opened until Christmas, explained Burger.
'Kevin's Kids' is an initiative that seems destined to continue for 30 more years as generations of children, who were once recipients, have now grown up into grateful adults who now want to give back and help families like themselves, according to Burger.