East Orange toy giveaway brings light to the community

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EAST ORANGE, NJ — East Orange held its annual toy giveaway on Thursday, Dec. 22, distributing more than 1,500 gifts to children. A variety of community partners, businesses and members of the community donated toys and funds to support this event, the goal of which is to spread holiday joy to families in need. Families who received gift vouchers during the tree lighting on Dec. 8 were able to receive gifts and take pictures with Santa, Mrs. Claus and the Grinch at this giveaway.

Hosted by Mayor Ted R. Green, the event was held at East Orange City Hall. For this event, Green collaborated with the East Orange City Council, the Recreation & Cultural Affairs department and the Theta Phi Sigma chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho.

“I am proud to partner with our local businesses, nonprofit organizations, employees and residents to bring cheer to East Orange children this season,” Green told the Record-Transcript. “Every year, more and more people are asking how to assist in making our holiday events a success, demonstrating that the spirit of giving is a community effort.”

Sigma Gamma Rho members were proud to be a part of this year’s toy giveaway. Sigma Gamma Rho is a historically black collegiate sorority whose members, even long after graduation, perform community service.

“It felt great to be a part of this year’s toy drive; it is our first time being involved in this giveaway, and it is an amazing opportunity to do good in our community,” Sigma Gamma Rho member Simena Carey-Jones, joined by member Azaria Cunningham, told the Record-Transcript. “Our motto is greater service leads to greater progress, and we hope that we created progress tonight.”

Sigma Gamma Rho worked locally to organize the resources needed to help the toy giveaway this year.

“We pulled together donations of old toys from churches and schools to give to the children,” Carey-Jones said.

Active in the community, Sigma Gamma Rho also supports initiatives for youths and women.

“We co-sponsor swimming events every year to keep the youth active and to learn how to swim,” Cunningham said. “We also host monthly movie screenings; this month we screened the movie ‘Aftershock,’ which focuses on maternal health for black and brown women.”

Sigma Gamma Rho members have many goals for the future.

“In addition to being involved in this toy giveaway next year and continuing our relationship with the mayor, we also want to work with Planned Parenthood — that’s a major goal for us,” Carey-Jones said.

Photos by Javon Ross