Jan 30, 2020 – Rise A Community Service Partnership
The magic number is 1,133 gifts for 1,122 needy children and 1,133 wishes fulfilled thanks to the annual holiday program spearheaded by Rise, the community service organization. The East Windsor Regional School District partners with Rise to provide school facilities to house the party each year. Families streamed into the Melvin H. Kreps Middle School in East Windsor all morning and into the afternoon on Saturday, December 14, to pick up gifts for their kids, then join the party hosted by the Junior League of Greater Princeton.
Mobilizing the event began in October when Rise started signing up donors and matching them with specific children whose families qualified on the basis of need and residence in Hightstown or East Windsor. Parents selected two choices from a wish list ranging from coats and boots to soccer balls and toys.
The night before the party, squads of volunteers converged upon the First · Methodist Church of Hightstown to lend logistical muscle and transport the gifts that filled the sanctuary to the school. Hightstown High School Football and Cheer team members and their parents joined in to pack up five truck loads, then unload and organize them in the gym and returned to volunteer on the following day to supervise games for the children. The trucks and drivers were supplied by ShopRite of East Windsor.
On party day, teacher volunteers shepherded the families to one of four stations to receive their gifts while giving each child a holiday story book and a candy cane. From there, Rise volunteers verified clients’ tickets against their registration books and located the appropriate presents, all beautifully wrapped.
Next stop – party! Junior League volunteers decorated the cafeteria and served up bagels and cream cheese, pastries, and fresh fruits along with beverages. Tables full of celebrating families were overflowing with packages and gifts. Project Linus- Mercer County Chapter, a nationwide non-profit dedicated to warming the hears and bodies of children in need, donated 2,000 handmade blankets. The Helene Cody Foundation of Cranbury donated 120 pairs of sneakers.
The Hightstown Juniorettes had a face painting station. The First Methodist Church of Hightstown contributed several hundred sweat suits. The local charitable organization, The Lala and Mimi’s Pajama Project graciously contributed 340 pairs of pajamas; and Madison Damore, a high school junior from Monroe, led a drive that brought in 600 pairs of pajamas.
Inpressive numbers of volunteers made everything happen. About 200 were present at the party, while many others helped beforehand. The diverse group of volunteers included members of the HHS Robotics team who provided demonstrations, Princeton SantaCon participants, EWRSD teachers, students, and even Santa and Mrs. Claus.
Thanks also go to Morgan’s Island Grill and Panera Bread for providing food and drinks for the hard-working volunteers who made it possible. Volunteer opportunities with Rise are available on an ongoing basis or for specific programs. Check out their website njrise.org, for details.