The annual Kevin's Kids holiday gift drive is under way, and organizers this year anticipate helping more families as they deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
"From the moment our schools reopened, my phone hasn’t stopped ringing with countless parents requesting help this Christmas Season," said Kevin Burger, the Manchester schools administrator who has run the drive for over 30 years.
Having lost a week of school due to the storm, the drive has some catching up to do.
"We're a little behind in fundraising," Burger said at the Board of Education regular meeting Wednesday. The gift wrapping event has been pushed back to the weekend of Dec. 15 and will be held at Ridgeway Elementary School since the Manchester Township Middle School gym floor is being converted from carpet to hardwood.
The gift drive aims to help over 400 families in need this holiday season, a number that is expected to trump last year's drive, Burger said.
"Our families are in more dire need since the storm. Our list of identified families will easily exceed last year’s totals," Burger said. "The calls I receive each day are for such basic needs."
On Wednesday, Burger said that Kevin's Kids is more than just a toy drive, as donations of necessities like winter jackets are also needed.
"It's not just a Christmas drive. It's a life drive, and our committee is working very hard to address those needs," he said.
Providing a warm coat and new shoes for children in need is a "great" challenge, Burger said. But it is one that he said Manchester residents can meet.
"I know that many of you have contributed generously in the past; however, this year I need your help more than ever before. Please know that every dollar we receive will go to helping well over 400 hundred children and their families," he said.
Students throughout the district are helping to raise funds — Whiting Elementary School students will hold a pajama party and pretzel day and Ridgeway students will hold a McDonalds night, for example.
"I am reaching out to all our friends for any help that you can provide. Whatever you can contribute will not only provide a Christmas but will improve the lives of so many well into the New Year," Burger said.
Those who would like to contribute can do so by check, made out to Manchester Township Middle School with a notation of "Kevin's Kids" in the memo section. They can be mailed to:
Manchester Township Middle School
2759 Ridgeway Rd.
Manchester, NJ 08759
Donations, which are requested by Dec. 16, also can be dropped off at any school within the district.