It was thanks to the efforts of the Jersey City Moms Meetup, a year-old organization of 115 moms, mostly stay-at-home mothers raising children 5 years and under.
They raised about $1,000 among their members and acquaintances and used the money to purchase the items for the basket. ShopRite donated the turkeys and hams, and some gifts were donated as well.
The Jersey City Moms Meetup worked with the Jersey City WIC (Women, Infants and Children) Program and the city's Division of Cultural Affairs since November to organize the event for the families, who are participants in the WIC program chosen to receive the gifts according to need. The Federally-funded WIC program in Jersey City has 13,000 participants and helps low-income pregnant and postpartum women. It also helps moms with infants and children up to age 5 who are found to be at nutritional risk.
The Jersey City Moms Meetup was given a certificate acknowledging their efforts.
On hand to give out the baskets and accompanying gifts were Mayor Jerramiah Healy, Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini, Cultural Affairs Director Maryanne Kelleher-Arango, and other city employees.
For Jersey City Heights resident Tanya Johnson, who came with her fiancé and two of her six children, it was a welcome sight for the holidays.
"I was happy and I was a little bit relieved because it's less that I have to do for Christmas," Johnson said.
Look what I'm bringing home
The hard part for the families walking away from the Council Chambers was carrying the rather weighty gift baskets, along with the 20-pound turkey (or ham) and presents.
But they were grateful to take on such a pleasant burden.
Greenville resident Karina Lirangi came with her 18-month old son Axal Rivera.
"It is good that I am here to get gifts for me and my little baby," Rivera said.
Cultural Affairs employees Connie Bolger and Cathy Deadwyler spent over five hours assembling the gift baskets the day before the event.
"It's great during the Christmas season to give to mothers in need," said Bolger, a mother of three.
It was only fitting that Deborah Murray, director of the WIC Program, was wearing a Santa hat on her head, as she helped out as well.
"It's wonderful," Murray said. "I feel that we do a lot for the community and give back to our participants. Some of [the participants] felt [the event] was embarrassing, but I said, 'Don't be embarrassed because without you, there would be no WIC program.' "
Jersey City Moms Meetup members Nikki McKay and Jackie Taylor, both newcomers to Jersey City, spearheaded the gift basket effort. Both were in attendance with their young children to see their good deed come to fruition.
"It makes me happy," McKay said. "It makes me cry, actually."
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