LONG BRANCH, NJ - The holidays are almost here and once again, Family & Children's Service (FCS), Monmouth County's oldest, private, nonprofit social service agency working to strengthen, protect and preserve the dignity and independence of people in need, is asking for your help ingranting the wishes of area children whose families may not be able to provide gifts this holiday season. The agency is collecting new coats, hats, gloves, toys, books, gift cards and infant necessities for children and families enrolled in Operation Sleighbells, FCS's signature holiday giving program.  

"Despite the relative prosperity of our area, many families, including working families, still struggle to make ends meet," says Samantha White, program coordinator and FCS Director of Volunteer Services. "Operation Sleighbells helps fill the gap. By providing relief to families during what can be a stressful time of year, we are upholding our Mission to support people during challenging times."

 

White says following last year's Operation Sleighbells, one single mother of six children wrote to tell her, "I have been through a lot and struggle to keep us together as a family and make sure that we have what we need first. Operation Sleighbells made this a very special Christmas for us. I don't have to stress . about getting them what they want, versus what they need."

Operation Sleighbells is different from other holiday drives in that it addresses the specific wishes of every child. Participating families are interviewed by staff and asked to provide the ages, sizes and needs of each child. Donors are then asked to fulfill the requests, either individually or by sponsoring an entire family.  The thousands of donated items are then organized and sorted by volunteers.  It's an enormous undertaking that also requires additional off-site space to sort and distribute the thousands of donations. This year, FCS is fortunate to partner with Monmouth Park which is providing temporary space for Operation Sleighbells at its Oceanport location.

"We are grateful to the owners and operators of Monmouth Park for their generous contribution to Operation Sleighbells," says FCS CEO Delly Beekman. "Without the use of the Park's facilities, we would be forced to significantly reduce the number of families we serve this holiday season. Thankfully, we can now conduct a drive sufficient to meet the needs of the community."

There are several ways the public can participate in Operation Sleighbells: 

1.    Adopt a Family - Provide toys, gifts, coats and perhaps a supermarket gift card to enable enabling an entire family to have a special holiday meal.

2.    Host a collection drive at work, school, or organization. -- FCS will provide tags listing the first name of a participating child with his or her age, size and holiday wish. Employees or group members can then select a tag and buy a gift for that particular child.

3.    Donate gifts - FCS gladly accepts new, unwrapped coats, books, toys and other gifts and will sort and distribute them based on the needs of those registered for the program

4.    Donate money to purchase gift cards for older teens - Donations can be made online at or mailed to the agency.

5.    Volunteer - Volunteer to help sort and pack gifts.

Donations can be dropped off from Thursday, December 3rd through Friday, December 11 at Operation Sleighbells temporary headquarters at Monmouth Park in Oceanport. Call the office at 732-222-9111 for directions. All donations must be received by Friday, December 11th in order to ensure delivery. For more information about Operation Sleighbells and how you can help, visit the FCS website at http://fcsmonmouth.org/our-services/operation-sleighbells/ or contact the agency at 732-222-9111.