LONG BRANCH – Family & Children’s Service (FCS), Monmouth County’s oldest nonprofit social service agency serving the vulnerable through education, intervention, care and counseling, is seeking donations for its annual holiday giving drive, Operation Sleighbells.
“This is the time of year when many of us start to turn our attention to the holidays,” said Samantha White, manager of FCS volunteer services. “For families in poverty, the holidays can be especially trying. The cost of providing basic necessities, especially in Monmouth County, can make it difficult to afford a celebratory meal or gifts for small children. We want to help with some of that.”
FCS’s Operation Sleighbells has been granting holiday wishes for thousands of children throughout Monmouth County for nearly 20 years. Last year it served more than 400 families, many of whom were impacted by Super Storm Sandy. Grounded in the generosity of the agency’s founders, Operation Sleighbells addresses the specific wishes of every child. Families are referred to the agency, interviewed and asked to provide the ages, sizes and needs of each child. Donors are then asked to fulfill the requests. The thousands of donated items are collected, sorted and distributed off site in a space donated by Monmouth Medical Center (MMC).
Agency CEO Delly Beekman said the donated space alleviates FCS’s need to lease a comparable facility, which the agency could not afford.
“Without MMC’s assistance, it would be nearly impossible to continue this important holiday tradition year after year,” Beekman said. “We are very grateful for their support.”
There are several ways to help with Operation Sleighbells:
1. Host a collection drive. FCS will provide sleigh tags to hang or distribute at a person’s workplace, school, club or family event. Each tag lists the first name of a child with his or her age, size and holiday wishes. Employees or group members can then select a sleigh from the tree and buy a gift for that particular child.
2. Donate gifts. FCS accepts new, unwrapped toys, clothes and nonperishable food items, and will sort and distribute them based on the needs of those registered for the program.
3. Donate money to purchase gift cards for older teens. Donations can be made online or mailed to the agency.
4. Volunteer. Volunteer to help sort and pack gifts during the month of December.
In addition, FCS will be conducting a holiday coat drive. Donations of coats of all sizes in good condition for men, women and children are appreciated. The coats will be available to families to select from when they come to pick up their gifts.
Donations can be brought to the agency’s office at 191 Bath Ave. After Dec. 3 donations should be dropped off at the Operation Sleighbells headquarters at 295 Third Ave. All donations should be received by Wednesday, Dec. 11.
Additional information about Operation Sleighbells and how people can help is available by visiting the FCS website at www.fcsmon mouth.org or contacting the agency at 732-222-9111.