Make this holiday the very best by volunteering your time and making donations to nonprofits in need
It’s the season of giving, and what better way to celebrate than by giving back to the amazing charitable organizations that make Ocean City such an amazing place? It’s easy to find a special way to support those in need. Read on for inspiration.
FOR THOSE WHO TEACH
Every Tuesday evening, voices from around the world come together at St. Peter’s United Methodist Church. The English Language Learning (ELL) class started about 20 years ago and is designed for those from any country and at any competency level who want to learn English. The program is exclusively staffed by volunteers who are often retired educators, but volunteers from all walks of life are welcome.
“Pretty much all they need is to have a giving spirit and patience to work with our learners,” ELL volunteer Constance Jenkins Pritchard said.
Thanks to its volunteers and financial support from St. Peter’s and the Ocean City Free Public Library, the program is completely free for students.
“I think what attracts volunteers is the wonderful opportunity to work with the person and to help them,” Pritchard continued. “You talk about family. You talk about work. You just really get to know people.”
Reach out to Constance at 609-231-9059 or [email protected].
St. Peter’s UMC is located at 501 E. Eighth Street, Ocean City. No registration is required for students.
FOR THOSE WHO SERVE
The Ocean City Ecumenical Council is run by the town’s houses of worship to support those in need around the island. The Food Cupboard and Clothes Closet are two of the faith- based nonprofit’s ventures.
“The Food Cupboard is here to basically meet the needs of residents,” cupboard coordinator Regina Ralston said.
The cupboard accepts all nonperishable donations, and could especially use individual microwavable items and individual food items, such as applesauce, SnackPacks, fruit cups and cookie or chip packs.
Body soap, lotion, shampoo, conditioner, disposable razors, combs, toothpaste, toothbrushes, feminine hygiene items, dish soap and laundry soap are needed, too, as well as paper goods such as paper towels, toilet paper and tissues.
Donations can be dropped off during open hours from 1-3pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, or in a bin outside the St. Peter’s UMC basement. Monetary donations can be made out to the Ocean City Ecumenical Council and mailed to the Food Cupboard, PO Box 1001, Ocean City, NJ 08226. Volunteers are always welcome, too.
Rissa Trofa co-manages the Clothes Closet with Anne Gallagher. Those in need can visit twice a month with proof of Ocean City residency. In addition to clothes, there
are linens, shoes, detergent, diapers and feminine hygiene products.
The Clothes Closet needs donations and can especially use towels, sheets, blankets and comforters, men’s shoes, men’s work gloves for working outdoors, and more coats, hats and gloves. Donations can be dropped off during open hours, 10am to 12:30pm, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
“Our community is very generous. They understand our work, and they understand how much we help people,” Trofa said.
The Food Cupboard is located at St. Peter’s UMC, 501 E. Eighth Street, Ocean City. The Clothes Closet is located at 555 West Avenue, Ocean City. Learn more at www.ocecnj.org.
FOR THOSE WHO LOVE ANIMALS
There are endless ways to give back to animals in Ocean City, whether it’s gifting toys and treats, opening your home to foster a pet, or spending one-on-one time with a homeless furry friend.
“While you’re here, you’re their person,” Phil Bellucci, operations and development director at the Humane Society of Ocean City (HSOC), said. “That’s why our volunteers are really special to us.”
Volunteers can register online to play with dogs and cuddle the cats at HSOC. Cape Atlantic Citizens Altering the Strays (CATS) also needs volunteers who can spend quality time with their friendly felines.
“The cats need exercise and need to learn how to play and learn how to meet people,” Judy Cantin, Cape-AtlantiCATS founder, said. “It makes them more adoptable.”
Food, cleaning items, toys and paper goods are always in need for animal rescues. The HSOC has a wishlist of needed items on its website. Cape-Atlantic CATS does, too, in addition to a wishlist on Chewy.com that ships right to the rescue.
Judy is also always looking for foster homes and highlighted the nonprofit’s Seniors for Seniors program, which places senior cats in homes with senior citizens. Cape-Atlantic CATS will provide food and take care of vet needs for these matches, too.
At its Downtown location, the nonprofit also has Mew to You, a resale shop that supports the rescue mission by selling gently used jewelry and small household items that are donated.
Upcoming HSOC events include the 15th Annual Turkey Trot 5K on Thanksgiving morning pictures with Santa Paws on December 10, with 100 percent of proceeds going back to the shelter.
The HSOC also has opportunities for creative gift giving. Bricks personalized in memory of a pet or human can be purchased and added to the HSOC reflection garden.
“We also have a sponsor-a-cat program for $60. You receive a picture of the cat and its story,” Phil said, “and you could give that for the holidays.”
HSOC is located at 1 Shelter Road, Ocean City, and can be reached at 609-398-9500 or hsocnj.org. Cape-Atlantic CATS and Mew to You are located at 957-959 Asbury Avenue, Ocean City, and can be reached at 609-399-4CAT or capeatlanticcats.com.
FOR THOSE WHO HEAL
Patients and families at Shore Medical Center are not only supported by the doctors, nurses and hospital staff. They are also shown comfort and kindness from volunteers.
“At Shore, we’re that community standalone hospital that takes care of your family, your neighbors,” Lisa DiTroia said. “Shore has always been like a family environment.”
For the past 23 years, Lisa has been the director of Shore’s auxiliary and volunteers – two different facets that “each in their own way touch patients and families,” she said.
A recent charitable project that has seen a huge turnout is knitting and crocheting blankets, lap covers and shawls for Shore’s hundreds of daily patients.
“The patients and families are so appreciative and so touched,” Lisa said. “If you’re looking for ways to give back, it’s something you can do from home.”
The Auxiliary will also host its Tree of Lights Ceremony on December 7, which is an opportunity to make a donation in memory or honor of a loved one. Each light on the tree represents a donation, and an accompanying book highlights all of the names.
Lisa loves to get the kids involved with volunteering, too, and an easy way is by making cards for patients. These can be special for holidays – Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas – and also general get well cards.
“You can help and make a difference here any time,” marketing coordinator Beth Ann Spiegel said.
Donated items can be dropped off in the main lobby, 100 Medical Center Way, Somers Point. Contact DiTroia at 609-653-3543 or [email protected]. Contact the Auxiliary at 609-653-4646. Learn more at shoremedicalcenter.org.
FOR KIDS AT HEART
“Toys for Tots speaks for itself. The county is really behind it,” Kevin Mallon, who has coordinated the county effort for the past six years, said. “You can see for yourself, right in front of your eyes, the giving that’s going on.”
The nonprofit serves children aged one month to 17 years. Toy donations are needed, especially for infants and kids aged 10 years and older. Mallon mentioned sports equipment, grooming and makeup kits, jewelry and drones as items for the older age bracket.
A running list of toy donation boxes is on the county’s Toys for Tots website. Monetary donations, which are used to purchase toys, can be made online or in person.
Volunteers are also needed for toy distribution. Urie’s Waterfront Restaurant in Wildwood is turned into a toy store for the occasion, where parents and guardians can come and shop for their little ones. The doors are open for one week, December 10 to 16, from 2 to 6pm, and specifics on how to shop and who can shop are on the website.
“I don’t do this alone, by no means,” Mallon said. “Between my wife and everyone who volunteers for us, they really keep it going.”
Contact Mallon at 609-602-8397. Find the local Toys for Tots online at cape-may-nj.toysfortots.org. Urie’s Waterfront Restaurant is located at 588 W. Rio Grande Avenue, Wildwood.
Find this and more in the November/December issue of OC Mag