4-H members spread holiday cheer to needy families

Staff Writer

 Members of Middlesex County 4-H get ready for their Project Gift event on Dec. 5. Members of Middlesex County 4-H get ready for their Project Gift event on Dec. 5. EAST BRUNSWICK — Many people have fond childhood memories of waking up on Christmas morning to see what Santa brought.

To ensure that even the neediest families in the area have a chance to experience the Christmas spirit, Middlesex County 4-H is there to lend a hand with its Project Gift event.

“I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from the parents who have come, and a lot of them would not be able to give gifts to their kids at all without this. A lot of them say that it really makes them feel good to be able to say to their kid ‘This is from me’ rather than at a charity event,” said Laura Bovitz, who is an advisor for 4-H.

“I think it gives the parents a sense of empowerment that at the holidays they can give something to their kids from them,” she continued, estimating that this year’s event would serve around 350 children.

 MICHAEL NUNES/STAFF MICHAEL NUNES/STAFF Since 1997, Middlesex County 4-H Project Gift has been giving needy kids a reason to smile on Christmas morning, and this year is no different. On Dec. 12, Middlesex County 4-H held its annual Project GIFT event at the 4-H grounds on Fern Road.

This year, the group invited 130 needy families to the event. The parents were given tickets, based on the number of children they had, in order to give parents the opportunity to choose their own gifts for their children.

“They’re actually shopping for their kids rather than getting anonymous gifts,” said Bovitz.

Some 80 members of the Middlesex County 4-H Junior and Teen Council sponsored this year’s event. Volunteers ranged from sixth- to 12th-graders. This is the largest service project they do all year, according to Bovitz.

“We’re so happy and excited to be helping these people, but it’s also unfortunate that they’re in the situation that they’re in. I just feel very grateful that I can participate in it and help people in need,” said Juli Ezzo, 17, mentioning that this was her sixth year volunteering for Project Gift.

Her fellow 4-H members echoed Ezzo’s comments.

“It’s extraordinary seeing the collective effort of what we’re doing and seeing the payoff right in front of you. You can see how excited everyone is to be here,” said Kate Gavin, 15.

While some of the gifts are donated, the bulk are bought by Middlesex County 4-H members using proceeds from the haunted house event they ran throughout the month of October.

The event raised around $8,000, which was used to buy gifts for children as young as toddlers to as old as teenagers. Bovitz estimates that there were between 2,500 to 3,000 gifts.

“We always want the tables to look full that whole event. … We want everyone regardless of what time they come to be happy with their choices,” she said.

Contact Michael Nunes at mnunes@gmnews.com.