Originally published in The Daily Journal on December 21, 2012. The original article can be seen here.
By Joseph P. Smith
MILLVILLE — Luck smiled on Margarita Sanchez’s family on Thursday, and more than once.
The Sanchez family, recently displaced from Atlantic City by Hurricane Sandy, was among 23 families invited to R.D. Wood Elementary School to pick up baskets of donated clothing, household and personal goods and food.
Sanchez came with her two young granddaughters, who she cares for while their mother works, and a family friend, Andrew Sanchez. The Sanchezes also won two prizes in a raffle, including a bag of gifts.
“It’s a help because we lost a lot of stuff in the flood,” Margarita Sanchez said.
Her employer, Atlantic City Medical Center, also has aided her family since the storm. It’s been tough getting in the Christmas spirit, though.
“Slowly, we’re getting back to where we were,” she said. The family is staying in Millville for now, she said.
Thursday’s event was the culmination of a Christmas gift drive, the second in as many years organized by the nonprofit PathStone Corp. The corporation, based in New York, operates in a number of states with an aim of helping to strengthen families.
In South Jersey, it is based in Vineland and provides social service programs in Cumberland and Atlantic counties.
The elementary school opened up its auditorium for PathStone to distribute the gifts after class dismissal and provide a lunch.
The 23 families were picked from residents in Vineland, Millville, Bridgeton and Hammonton who’d been nominated by individuals, agencies, churches and school.
Elena Peeples, a PathStone employee who helped coordinate the drive, said this year’s drive was expanded to include Hammonton residents.
Peeples said the typical family is young and often grandparents are the prime guardians for the children.
“There’s so much need in our counties, there is no problem finding people,” she said.
Peeples said all of the goods were donated, much of it from Mercy Hill Presbyterian Church in Glassboro. Divine Mercy Parish in Vineland also helped, and in-county businesses like Bennigan’s and Walmart were donors.
“We explain to them ‘this is for families and every little bit helps,” she said.
The family of Wood school student Alan Perez, the oldest of four children, was nominated by a teacher. Besides the gifts, his family won the Bennigan’s gift basket.
“We did win some pretty good prizes,” Perez said.
But family, he said, is the best thing about Christmas.
Other 2012 donors were Applebee’s, Leon Construction, El Mercadito, Wenonah Elementary School, JC Construction, Wawa, ShopRite, Downtown Deli, La Favorita, Jim Main’s Bakery, San Paolo Bakery, La Hacienda, Tony Soprano’s, La Cabana del Tio Tom, Torres and Son, Manilos Video, Exotic Auto, Econo Lodge and TD Bank, along with many individuals.