RAINE helps Santa bring Christmas joy to families in need

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Matt Denton
The decorated Christmas tree at the entrance to the Seniors Center welcomes guests to the annual Christmas Dinner in North Brunswick on December 15.

By KATHARINE FRIEDMAN
Correspondent

HAZLET — When most think of the holidays, they remember fond memories with family, a cozy fireplace and opening presents — however, some are not as lucky.

There are families who cannot afford the doll, LEGO set or sweater their child wants for Christmas. They need a Christmas miracle, and that is when Reaching All in Need Everyday (RAINE) comes in with their Christmas tradition “Santa on the Run.”

Since 2001, RAINE has asked families in need what their wish list is for Christmas. Items could include clothes, bicycles or dolls. Over 400 families and their 800 children sent in their wish lists. Once the list is made volunteers go out and try to acquire as many items on the list as possible through shopping and donations.

“We are trying to help out as many families as we can. People from the community are coming out trying to supply us with enough toys and man-hours — the township really rallies around this,” said Anthony Petruzzi, RAINE’s president-elect. He has been involved with the organization for six years.

Presents were bought over a three-day period — from Dec. 19-21. Volunteers then wrapped the presents to make them pretty and bagged them. Finding a big area to wrap the presents was not easy for RAINE, but this year they lucked out. The owners of the recently closed K-Mart in Hazlet reached out to Patti Dickens, one of RAINE’s most dedicated members, and offered to lease their building to RAINE for the holidays.

Wrapping presents is not the only joyful thing RAINE did. Volunteers took part in a bicycle building contest that was held Dec. 20. All of the sports teams at Raritan High School competed to build the most efficient bikes in the quickest time.

When all of the presents were wrapped Dec. 21, RAINE celebrated with their volunteers and the town of Hazlet with food and a great time. Several RAINE members and volunteers dressed as Santa Claus or elves ready to hand out presents to families later in the evening.

Once the festivities were done, it was time for the presents to be delivered to over 400 families, thanks to fire departments in Monmouth County. Instead of an old sleigh, Santa had fire trucks and ambulances to help RAINE make children’s Christmas dreams come true.

“Growing up, being a part of this community — this is something really special,” said Petruzzi. “I’m glad to be a part of it.”