Holmdel Village School children and families shipped out more than 1,000 gifts today as a part of Operation Sleighbells, to benefit more than 400 families of the Family and Childrens Service of Long Branch, a nonprofit social service agency.
Each grade was tasked with donating items like new toys, books, coats, pajamas, hats and gloves, to be distributed to families in Highlands, Union Beach, Keyport, Bradley Beach, Long Branch and surrounding towns.
"Everybody has been so generous and giving," said Jami Kenney, a second grade teacher who coordinated the effort with PSA President Dina D'Ambrosi. It's the eighth year Kenney has helped round up the gifts for FCS.
She stood before the small mountain of gifts to be sent out Monday and tried to guess how much there was in the colorful variety: Games of Connect 4 and Twister, a Beverly Clearly book set, a girls faux sued jacket, soft blankets, Lego sets, socks and underwear, Jenga blocks, puzzles, Barbies and train sets and more. "Last year we had 800 gifts. This year, we can estimate it's over 1,000," she said.
The gifts will be laid out in categories for parents to "shop" from for Christmas. This delighted some second grade students who came in to see the good deed the school families accomplished together.
Nicholas D'Ambrosi remarked, "I hope they find a really good gift, and I hope they find something really great to make them happy," he said.
Michael Bracero said, "The people who lost their house and toys are getting them back, and it makes me feel very happy."
Julia Fernandez approved of the Matchbox cars. "They are cool and fun to play with," she said.
Principal Brian Schillaci said that the effort mirrored the school's character education curriculum, to show compassion for others. In addition to the gift collection, the school also collected $500 in loose change at lunchtime intended to be distributed to other schools hit hard by Hurricane Sandy.
Another fundraiser for February is in the planning stages, the principal said.