By Maddy Vitale
Any of us could fall on hard times. Brittany Battle, who grew up in Ocean City, recognizes that, and for a second year in a row, she has called upon the community to help people out, especially around the holidays.
Battle, along with her sister and two of her friends who are fellow Ocean City High School graduates, are hosting the Second Annual Ocean City Juneteenth Holiday Drive and Day of Service on Saturday.
The event will be held from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the 7th Street Recreation Center in Ocean City.
Battle, who now lives in Highland Park, her sister, Coryn Graves, of Pleasantville, and their friends Takiya Wilson, of Egg Harbor Township, and Josh Baker, of Elmwood Park, along with other volunteers, will be collecting items to be donated to local homeless shelters, including travel-size toiletries to make care bags.
Despite only being in its second year, the event has already attracted a lot of community support, Battle said.
“It’s really a privilege to be able to put together this drive and day of service as an organization,” she said. “To see the community come together, people from all walks of life and backgrounds, bringing donations and contributing in some way, is really a beautiful thing.”
She said that even children are joining in the holiday drive to help those in need.
“Getting the kids involved and teaching them early that service and community uplift is really special,” Battle added.
Donations accepted at the holiday drive include, toiletries, socks, coats, hats, gloves, scarves, cleaning supplies, canned goods, diapers, paper products and travel-size soaps, toothpastes and other necessities.
Travel-size bags are ideal because they are easier for people to carry around, especially if they don’t have stable housing, Battle explained.
Battle, who is studying for a doctorate in social work at Rutgers University, said remembering those less fortunate is vital to the strength of a community.
“It is so important to be able to care for and show empathy and respect for those in our community who might be facing struggles or a difficult time,” she said.
For the last month or so, Battle and her group of volunteers have worked hard to put together the baggies of donated items, Battle said.
This year they hope the holiday drive is even bigger than the first.
Judging by the support of Ocean City, Battle said, she feels assured it will be.
What makes the event successful is the support of the community, and others who have worked together to make it possible, Battle said.
“Our family and workplaces have contributed a great deal. My colleagues at Rutgers always come through with lots of donations of travel-size toiletries because we do so much traveling for conferences,” Battle noted. “Takiya (Wilson) gets a lot of support from her colleagues at the Atlantic City Board of Education and my sister cuts coupons so she always helps with lots of items.”
After the drive, Battle and the other volunteers will separate the items and take them to the Atlantic City Rescue Mission and to Turning Point Day Care Center in Atlantic City. Extra clothing and toiletries will be taken to C.A.R.A. (Coalition Against Rape and Abuse) located in Cape May Court House.
For more information or to make arrangements to drop off donations, call Takiya Wilson at 609-992-1909 or Brittany Battle at 609-464-1747.