The holidays are upon us. Though at times it can be hectic, from the shopping and decorating to the cooking, baking and wrapping, there’s always a certain sparkle to this time of year – something in the air that reminds us to think beyond the typical day-to-day and share the cheerful spirit of the season with those around us.
The Bergen Volunteer Center, a non-profit organization in Hackensack providing safer environments, self-sufficiency and brighter futures for residents in the local community, has been doing just this with its All Wrapped Up Holiday Giving Program for nearly 20 years. The successful program matches Bergen County individuals and families in need with willing donors from the community, ensuring that all are remembered during the holiday season.
Each year, the All Wrapped Up Holiday Giving Program partners with a select group of pre-screened Bergen County agencies that serve low-income individuals and families with no other source of holiday support. On average, All Wrapped Up impacts almost 4,000 people every holiday season.
Deborah Emery, director of Community and Youth Engagement at the Center, is proud to have had the privilege of personally managing the organization’s holiday program for the past 12 years.
“I am so lucky to play the matchmaker between people, from the very young to the very old, who need our support, kindness and caring, with those who are willing to reach out to their own community and neighbors to help,” said Emery. “I truly think that the staff of the Volunteer Center involved in this holiday program gets more out of it than anyone. It is an incredible feeling to be able to make all of these connections work.”
Last year, 786 families and 919 individuals, referred by 28 Bergen County non-profit agencies, were “adopted” by other families, individuals, community groups and companies. The gifts contributed totaled a whopping $285,000. Gifts ranged from toys to clothing and household items, to gift certificates, food and more. Almost 3,500 people coping with illness, unemployment, isolation, domestic abuse and poverty were helped by generous donations.
“I have seen requests from young adults just placed out of the social services system, who want a coat or dress slacks and a tie so they can prepare for entering the work force,” explained Emery. “I have seen requests from the very elderly who simply want warmth: new socks and undergarments or cans of their favorite soups. I have seen families who struggle each and every day to feed their loved ones request winter coats, hats and gloves and warm shoes or boots.”
The opportunities to help are endless, and oftentimes, it’s the smallest gestures that mean the most.
How can you help this holiday season? All Wrapped Up is a community opportunity and effort, which focuses on working at a local level to truly support every individual involved. The Center asks contributors to consider spending approximately $50 for each matched person they’re assigned. Recipients include babies, children, teens, young adults, adults and seniors – all need some warm holiday support. The program has begun its the matching process.
“The thank you notes and kind words from caseworkers who send their clients to this program are filled with compassion, gratitude and a deep sense of relief to know that people are remembered,” comments Emery. “In difficult social times, to see people come together in need and support really highlights what holiday spirit is all about.”
By Megan Montemarano