4-H youth members prep gifts for families in need this Christmas

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EAST BRUNSWICK–Supplying parents in need with gifts for this Christmas season, the Middlesex County 4-H program sponsored its 20th annual Project GIFT event.

“The 4-H is a non-formal youth development program that gives youth the opportunity to learn and practice life skills such leadership, teamwork and citizenship along with working alongside adult volunteers,” county 4-H Agent Laura Bovitz said.

For the past 20 years, the Middlesex County 4-H program has held Project GIF, which provides a free day of holiday shopping for needy families in Middlesex County, according to a prepared statement from the Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Middlesex County.

More than 35 teens from the 4-H program helped pack and wraps hundreds of donated gifts on Dec. 8 at the 4-H Center in East Brunswick.

Project GIFT was started in 1997 by the 4-H Teen Council, according to Bovitz.

“The teens wanted to do something other than anonymous donations to needy families. They wanted to give parents a sense of empowerment of ‘selecting’ gifts for their own children for the holidays,” Bovitz said.

The 4-H members also donate many hours of their time throughout the year to help raise funds and plan each aspect of this holiday gathering, according to a prepared statement.

“It’s just an amazing thing to see and be apart of and it’s hard to put into words how much joy it gives us to just be able to see all of the kids get to help. Since a lot of us are down here in childcare we get to work with the kids and meet the kids that we help and see all of the kids we give a better Christmas [to] because of this,” 4-H member Shannon Glynn said.

“We have well over 100-175 teens in the entire 4-H program, but approximately 85 teens plan and run this program,” Bovitz added.

The program’s primary source of fundraising is through a month-long haunted house in October, according to Bovitz.

“The teens that help to [fundraise] for and plan and run the event are dedicated to the program and its mission and are vested in its success. The program runs as a true youth adult partnership with teens and adult volunteers having equal say in the running of the program,” she said.

 

For more information about the 4-H program, visit www.nj4h.rutgers.edu/about/.

Contact Vashti Harris at vharris@newspapermediagroup.com.