County residents donate more than 18 tons of food to the needy this winter

WEST ORANGE, NJ — According to Essex County, 81,798 people visited the 10th annual Essex County Holiday Lights Spectacular at Turtle Back Zoo and more than 18 tons of non-perishable food, clothing and toys were collected for those in need. Both the attendance and amount of items collected were the second most in the event’s 10-year history.

“It is humbling to see the large number of items dropped off at the Holiday Lights Spectacular to assist the less fortunate. These donations show the generous spirit and caring that exists in our community and certainly helped make a difference during the holiday season to those who need assistance,” Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. said in a press release.

The 81,798 visitors at the Holiday Lights Spectacular was the second largest attendance figure for the event, behind the 131,594 people who came in 2015. The 18 tons of items collected also was the second most in history, again behind the 25 tons collected in 2015. This past winter, 36,435 pounds — more than 18 tons — of non-perishable food was collected for the Community FoodBank of NJ.

In addition, 3,600 new toys and 4,600 winter coats were collected. These items were donated to Bethany Baptist Church in Newark, Beulah Bible Cathedral in Newark, the Essex County Sheriff’s Office Toy Drive, Foster and Adoptive Family Services in Monmouth Junction, Iglesia Cristiana Emanuel in Newark, Ivy Hill Elementary School Kid’s Closet in Newark, Jersey Battered Women’s Shelter, Late Bloomer Project Inc. in Newark, Milagros Angels in Newark, NJPAC Toy and Coat Drive to benefit La Casa De Don Pedro in Newark, Oasis-A Haven for Women and Children, the East Orange YMCA, The Unforgotten Haven in Blackwood and Willing Heart Community Center in Newark.

This was the seventh year that visitors were asked to make a donation to help the less fortunate, and donations collected over the years have amounted to more than 67 tons of non-perishable food, 339,630 toys and 17,968 winter coats.