“This is one of those surreal feelings, it’s not really something I can put into words,” says Aimee Focaraccio, NB CARES coordinator. “Doing what I do all year round is just one of those things that I really appreciate like you can’t imagine.”
Good things come in small packages, how ‘bout a lot of packages, new unwrapped packages. NB CARES kicked off the holiday season at Bar One Public House in Fairview doing what they do best every year, giving back to the kids.
“It’s always about the kids; that’s why she does it,” says Mike Appell, from the North Bergen Parks Department. “Who doesn’t want to help out a kid that needs help. We all know people who are unfortunate than us and it’s always great to give back to the community.”
Camaraderie, a word that gets said a lot in town and it’s that sense of community that always brings everyone together to take part in this toy drive.
“I can’t say enough for what she does for the town,” says Bob Ceragno, owner of Eye Contact Vision Center. “You hear what goes on in the new nowadays and for the gift for the holidays — is just something that I think is too important not to do.”
“Aimee does such a wonderful job and the mayor and all the commissioners of making sure that the children of North Bergen have a Merry Christmas,” says Jacky Weyand, a retired nurse and toy drive volunteer.
According to Focaraccio, it’s amazing to work for a township and a mayor and commissioner who understands this kind of need.
“And to be able to facilitate that and give back to families and children,” Focaraccio says.
When Mike first met Aimee she was holding a clothes drive out of her house for the victims of the four-alarm fire on Broadway near 74th Street.
“It was many years ago and that was basically how she started NB CARES. Ever since then my girlfriend has always volunteered at any of her events — so of course I have to volunteer too, but I don’t mind, it’s for a great cause,” Appell says.
They are able to collect and give out more than 1,000 toys for families in need throughout the township.
“Drop them off at any school in the township of North Bergen, any public building, town hall, the police department,” Focaraccio says. “We’re collecting toys ’til Dec. 18 and our giveaway’s the 19th.”
Weyand returns every year to make a difference.
“Because not only do we donate, my husband and I — but we go and we volunteer to help Aimee package and give out the toys and to see the joy on these children’s faces.”
Everybody loves to buy toys for the smaller kids but gifts for the older kids are the ones they’re always lacking.
“Ten to 13, 13 to 15; it doesn’t even have to be anything big, ya know DVDs, ear pods, wireless speakers, stuff like that,” Focaraccio says.
“‘Cause the people are very grateful for the stuff we have to offer them, so you don’t have to go out and spend a lot of money; $10/$15.”
Making sure no child is left behind, they do that and more.
“People in North Bergen are very, very, very generous,” Weyand says. “I feel that everyone opens up their wallets and their hearts.”
“There are so many single family parents out there that are in need, so if a child can open up a gift that has basically nothing at this time of year that means a lot,” Ceragno says.
According to Focaraccio, they’re very lucky because the Emergency Relief Center for NB CARES is fully functional year-round.
“We’re always accepting new clothing, school supplies, toiletries, non-perishable foods,” she says. “We work with fire victims, families in need. So any time throughout the year, if they have something that they want to donate, call me at the office/201-392-0229 or they can e-mail me firstname.lastname@example.org and we can always work something out if they want to donate, they want to volunteer, they want to give back.”