EAST BRUNSWICK–Assembling hundreds of presents for families in need this Christmas season, the Middlesex County 4-H group sponsored its 22nd annual “Project GIFT” drive.
“The 4-H is a non-formal youth development program that gives youth the opportunity to learn and practice life skills such leadership, teamwork and citizenship along with working alongside adult volunteers,” county 4-H Agent Laura Bovitz said.
This is the 22nd year of 4-H’s Project GIFT, which provides a free day of holiday shopping to more than 130 families in need in Middlesex County, according to a prepared statement from the Middlesex County Office of Communication.
More than 70 4-H teens assist with the fundraising and running of this event, specifically raising about $7,000 this year from 4-H’s Haunted House fundraiser, according to a prepared statement from the county.
Through collaborative teamwork, teens from the 4-H program helped organize hundreds of gifts to prepare for the families in need on Dec. 8 at the Middlesex County 4-H Center.
Bovitz said, “[W]ith donations from individuals, organizations and the gifts we purchase with our fundraising from our Haunted House, we must have thousands of gifts. I think it would take us hours to count them all.”
Project GIFT was held on Dec. 9.
“We did gather a few gifts for people who couldn’t attend that day but we work with the agencies we serve to help get all the parents there on the day of the event,” Bovitz said. “Some come by bus, we get transportation donated, and others drive and we stagger the times the groups come in so it’s not too crowded.”
Project GIFT was started in 1997 by the 4-H Teen Council, according to Bovitz.
4-H Member Maddie Gavin said she has been involved with the 4-H program for about nine years.
“My mom did it when she was younger so she wanted us to do it and then when I got a little older I felt like I wanted to continue so I joined [4-H’s] Junior Council,” she said.
4-H teens donate many hours of their time throughout the year to raise funds and make plans to ensure the success of this annual event, according to the statement.
“I have done it any times before, but also when you get it all done and you see all the people coming you feel so accomplished that they’re able to bring gifts home to their family and you are able to give people a Christmas they might not have been able to have,” Maddie said.
For more information about the 4-H program, visit www.nj4h.rutgers.edu/about/.
Contact Vashti Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org.