IRVINGTON, NJ — South Ward Councilwoman Sandy Jones joined forces with several local organizations to host the second Holiday Toy Giveaway on Saturday, Dec. 12, from 1 to 5 p.m. at Mt. Vernon Avenue Elementary School. The event was co-hosted by the Garden State Grand Lodge Most Worshipful Master Omar Bilal Beasley, the Friends of Irvington Park, the Irvington public schools, the Irvington Neighborhood Improvement Corporation, the Fire and Police departments, Mayor Tony Vauss and the township and Toys for Tots.
“It’s fantastic, man, to see so many smiles on these kids faces. It brings joy to my heart,” said Beasley on Saturday, Dec. 12.
“Now I know why my father was a public servant for so long. To be able to do something like this at the end of the year, when the kids don’t see anything but war, killings and things of mischief in the paper and on the news; to be able to have them come in this setting and enjoy themselves is a wonderful thing. It’s a collective effort between the Most Worshipful Garden State Grand Lodge, Friends of Irvington Park and the Eric Dixon Civic Association.
“And I’d like to thank the Toys for Tots program, because we have a relationship with them that’s outstanding, which will allow us to keep this thing going every year.”
Beasley also thanked all the volunteers, saying that everyone who came out to support the event was necessary.
“I want to thank all the volunteers because, without them, we couldn’t make this thing possible,” said Beasley. “The numbers were so large, I forgot how many toys we gave away. As long as every child left here happy, I’m happy.“
Although Beasley refrained from speculating about the total number of toys given away to children on Saturday, Dec. 12, Dixon didn’t hesitate to talk about it.
“Today was about helping the kids in the community,” Dixon said Saturday, Dec. 12. “It started off helping out kids that don’t have. We’re not poor, but there are some in the community that might have a little less than others and we want to help them out. It turned out, though, that everybody was invited and everybody came out. I believe there was over 1,000 people in this room today.”
Dixon agreed with Beasley that “We have a good relationship with Toys for Tots.” He said, thanks to that organization’s largess and the generous donations, every child who came to the event left with at least one gift.
Beasley said the giveaway was in line with the Freemasons motto of “making good men better,” and with the often misunderstood organization’s mission to serve people and the community.
Former Garden State Grand Lodge Grand Master Claude Davis said Beasley was right. He currently does not hold an office or title within the organization, but said he remains committed to helping the community.
“Really and truly, we try to capture the minds of any young person, so that they would be headed in the right direction as they go in life,” Davis said Saturday, Dec. 12. “Life is rough today. So they really need to understand what life is all about. And that’s what we try to do. We try to show love, peace and harmony among our people. That’s a great thing, because you can see how the children are enjoying themselves today.”
Jones agreed, saying the annual event just keeps getting bigger and bigger, and was moved to Mt. Vernon Avenue School to accommodate the large number of attendees. But Jones said they did not expect the “huge” turnout they received on Saturday, Dec. 12.
“We had a really big turnout — more than I expected — but it was a good thing,” Jones said Saturday, Dec. 12.
“We got help from a lot of people and made a lot of kids smile and there’s never anything wrong with that. We do this every year for the community and it keeps getting bigger, but that’s a good thing, too.”
Tiffany Lawson said she came out with her daughters Fahmie, 6, and Siraiya Destiny, 3.
“It’s a wonderful thing and we appreciate it,” Lawson said Saturday, Dec. 12. “We need more of this; more sense of community. Instead of the division, more of bringing people together. There was a large turnout out, so you come to something like this with patience. You have to look at it as an opportunity to come out, meet your neighbors and say: ‘Hi, my name is Tiffany; what’s yours?’ because you don’t get the opportunity to do that much.”