By MADDY VITALE
During the holidays and year-round there are people in need. During the COVID-19 pandemic more people are facing difficult times, job losses and other hardships.
So, the Ocean City Board of Realtors decided to do something that would provide an array of services, products and food to the people who need it most by way of gift cards from local merchants and OCNJ CARE, a non-profit organization that raises funds, identifies those in need and delivers aid where needed in the community.
“It really is a win-win for our local families and merchants,” local real estate agent Gloria Votta explained in an interview.
As chairwoman of the Board of Realtors’ Community Services Committee, Votta said that it is a way to help those in need and also support downtown and Boardwalk store owners and eateries.
“Please consider purchasing a gift card from your favorite store, restaurant or Boardwalk spot. We encourage our fellow realtors’ friends and neighbors to help make this holiday season,” she noted.
The gift card drive for the December Community Service Project of the board replaces the annual Toys for Tots collection.
Votta said the toy collection was canceled because of the pandemic. Instead of toys, people will receive items that they need, and they can still purchase toys with gift cards.
“They can go to local shops to buy toys for their children,” Votta added.
President of the Downtown Merchants Association Danielle Guerriero called it a wonderful event.
“It is a great way to bring the community together to help others and support local businesses in the area,” she said. “I absolutely love the idea.”
The gift cards may be purchased by members of the community through Dec. 20. The gift cards can be dropped off at the Board of Realtors office.
Then, OCNJ CARE will deliver the gift cards to the families who need them, explained Drew Fasy, chairman of the organization.
“A lot of our clients are families and seniors. On the holidays they can use the gift cards to buy what they need,” Fasy emphasized. “Our role is the distribution of the gift cards. We have a database of families in need. It will include some people in the Ocean City Housing Authority and families we have been made aware of who have been struggling.”
Fasy added that the idea of gift cards makes sense during the pandemic.
“Everybody is feeling the pinch. We are a local organization and we want to help out. We were happy to join with the Board of Realtors for this drive,” he said. “Rather than a toy drive, we would rather that you go to Boardwalk and downtown stores so that everyone on the island can benefit.”
Donations may be dropped off at the Ocean City Board of Realtors at 405 22nd Street. (Office hours are Monday-Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) The office is closed this Friday.