May 30, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
May 30, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Bergen County Kicks Off Chanukah Toy Drive

Teaneck—The Bergen County Chanukah Toy Drive is a perfect example of how one person’s kindness can grow to engage a community. Twenty-four years ago Marla Friedman started a toy drive in her house. Her intention from the beginning was to make chesed fun for children. Now the drive runs in schools and shuls across Bergen County, with private houses and students getting involved too.

Joy Sklar first got involved when her kids were younger. “We have a bunch of Chanukah birthdays and would take gifts over to Marla’s for the toy drive,” Sklar recounted. She described how over time her kids came to look forward to the annual gift delivery (“Marla always had a treat for the kids, too”) and plan for the drop off. As her children got older, they graduated from just donating gifts to packing, sorting, getting involved and eventually moving the toy drive to the Sklar house.

This year the toy drive had its own personal growth as it welcomed a second-generation toy drive coordinator. Evie Leifer has coordinated for her shul in the past, and this year Darchei Noam of Fair Lawn joined the efforts, with shul member Mira Stokar (Leifer’s daughter) involved.

Sklar and her co-chair, Dalia Stelzer, love seeing the involvement across the community and how schools, shuls and families continue with Friedman’s mission to make chesed fun and find ways to engage and entertain the participants. Sklar’s house serves as toy drive headquarters, but also a drop-off point itself where children still receive candy, just for dropping off a gift.

Sometimes schools will devise a theme and request gifts that tie into that theme. Preschool classrooms use this opportunity to teach real-life application of the mitzvot, and together the children vote on what organization will receive the funds or which gifts to purchase with the money collected. Other students find ways to raise their own money, which they then use to buy toys themselves. Both Sklar and Stelzer visit the schools and speak about the toy drive as a way to make a connection for the students.

Whatever route people choose to become involved, Sklar implored participants to, “Please involve your children in the process. Whether it means taking them to the store to actually select the gifts, brainstorm with them or deliver it personally, let them be a part of the toy drive.”

Last year the toy drive even jumped on the social media wagon and formed a Facebook group, @BergenCountyChanukahToyDrive, where everyone was encouraged to post their pictures at drop-off points, shopping, packing, sorting and anywhere else they were involved in the drive.

The organizations receiving the gifts span the needs of the Jewish community. Project Ezrah, SINAI, J-ADD, Jewish Family Services, Tomchei Shabbos, Yachad, Friendship Circle, Tomorrow’s Children of Hackensack Hospital, Sharsheret, iShine, Chai4Ever, Yachad and Ohel are just some of the many organizations on the receiving end of the community’s generosity.

Stelzer and Sklar are so proud of the response of the community each year. The thank you letters they receive following Chanukah motivate them time and time again. As Project Ezrah wrote, “Toys and gifts could not have been a part of their Chanukah celebration had it not been for your generous donation…Our client families are so grateful that they were able to see their childrens’ opening-gifts smiles.” Jewish Family Services continued this sentiment and wrote how, “Many of our families would not have been able to give their kids gifts this Chanukah and your generosity went a long way in providing much joy.”

The toy drive accepts all new, unwrapped toys as well as gift cards. Gifts catered to teens are always hard to find and very much appreciated. As the toy drive is in full swing throughout the area, Sklar and Stelzer look forward to being a part of the creativity and generosity yet again. The toy drive officially ends December 18, but many organizations need their gifts even earlier. For more information contact a local school or shul or go to the website at www.BCtoydrive.com.

By Jenny Gans

 

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles