Hudson County We Care, Inc., a nonprofit organization based in Jersey City, has for the past seven years been determined to make sure that doesn't happen.
The organization, every year since 1997, has worked with corporations, private businesses, elected officials, private citizens and social organizations to fill Dear Santa letters from children.
This Christmas, nearly 1,000 letters from children in shelters, foster care homes, hospitals and other facilities will see their holiday wishes come true, with a little help from some special Santas from Goldman Sachs, the Jersey City Police Department, and others.
"I try to live the Christmases I enjoyed when I was a kid through the kids I help. I was very blessed growing up, and I think everyone deserves that opportunity," said Robin Pinkowitz, the executive director of Hudson County We Care.
Meanwhile, various city officials are doing their part to bring holiday cheer to boys and girls of all ages with Christmas parties, toy drives, and other related events.HOpe, HOpe, HOpe
Pinkowitz said that this mission to make every Christmas as memorable as ones she had growing up sprang from a conversation with a young boy she met in the Hamilton Park section of the city where she resides in November 1997.
"I was walking my dog and this kid was playing with my dog," said Pinkowitz. "During our conversation, the kid said that he couldn't have a dog. I told him that Santa would bring him a dog. That's when he told me that Santa wouldn't know where to bring the dog."
As the conversation progressed, she found out that the young boy lived in a shelter known as Anthony House (now known as Hope House) in Downtown Jersey City, one of 28 families who lived in the shelter.
"I was so upset that I was in tears. I remember having a conversation later that day with my mom and I was crying hysterically talking about the young boy not getting a dog," said Pinkowitz. "She then said to me, why don't you do something for Christmas?"
That's when Pinkowitz, then an employee of the Kenneth Cole New York, along with her fellow employees, pooled their money together and ended up spending over $400 per child that year. That Christmas success has become a tradition for the past seven years with Hudson County We Care, going from filling the Christmas wish list of 36 kids to upwards of 1,400 children one year.
Pinkowitz said this year 985 Dear Santa letters will be filled by employees from Goldman Sachs, the law firm of Waters, MacPherson and MacNeill, the Jersey City Police Department, the Union City Police Department, and many others who aren't mentioned to avoid publicity. The letters come from various shelters and schools across the city by the neediest of children up to the age of 16.
Pinkowitz said that she fills the letters for public officials and corporations that have the money but may not have the time.
"I get to do my favorite thing - shopping. This past week I spent $900 at Target. I think every salesperson in that store was taking care of me," said Pinkowitz.
Pinkowitz said that her favorite letters to fill are those where the child wants very little in return.
"I remember one letter where the child just wanted school uniforms," said Pinkowitz. "That warmed my heart, and went out and bought the uniform along with many other items."
This year in particular will be a very special one for Pinkowitz and her organization, as she lent a helping hand to Kamlita Chavez, the 26-year-old mother of three who along with the Gusuta family lost their Van Nostrand home in a fire on Nov. 16.
Hudson County We Care has helped Chavez and her family in the past month find a new apartment and has raised over $3,500 which will go toward the purchase of items to replace the ones that were lost in the fire.
"She is the sweetest person and I just look at her and just think that what happened to her could happen to anyone," said Pinkowitz, who also found out there's a surprise awaiting Chavez this coming Monday at City Hall, but hasn't been given any details. Sidebar Holiday events and activities
Jersey City can be a rough-and-tumble place, but come Christmastime, it becomes a kind and humble place. Here are just some of the many activities and events for the holiday reveler: Mayor Jerramiah Healy and Police Chief Robert Troy announced a holiday toy drive for under privileged children being conducted by the Jersey City Police Department.
The JCPD has broken down the toy drive into four police precincts - East, North, South and West. The East District will have its toy drive on Dec. 18 at the Liberty Academy Charter School at 153 York St. from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 1 p.m.
The North District have asked area schools to give 100 names of needy students and police officers will purchase toys, wrap them and deliver them to the students at the schools. The South District will also collect toys for needy children in their area.
The West District will hold a holiday party on Dec. 21 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Ansun Tae Kwon Do Studio at 260 Martin Luther King Drive. For more information about that party, call Police Officer Cora Kerton at (201) 547-6519. On Sunday, Dec. 19 at 10 a.m., Santa will deliver toys to "The Kids In Need" organization hosted by the Dante Alighieri Society, The Ray of Hope Foundation and PSEG at 562 Summit Ave. (between Pavonia and Newark avenues). Making an appearance at the event will be Kamlita Chavez (see story above) and Santa will come with his helpers with a red Cadillac convertible with white interior and a deer head on the hood. For more information call (201) 653-9657. On Wednesday, Dec. 22 at 10 a.m., the Hudson County Realtors will make an appearance at the St. Joseph's School for the Blind at 253 Baldwin Ave. to deliver Christmas gifts to the students. For more information, contact Ed Lucas at (201) 653-0578. - RK Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org