Holiday Express, a nonprofit organization that brings music, gifts, hope and joy to individuals in need and often forgotten during the holidays is marking its 30th season with 100 performances in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.
Those wishing to support Holiday Express’ mission to “share the gift of human kindness” are invited to attend two benefit concerts on Dec. 19-20 at the Count Basie Center, Red Bank, said founder Tim McLoone of Little Silver.
McLoone, a musician and restaurateur, created Holiday Express in 1993 to help brighten the holidays for children and adults facing mental and physical challenges, serious illness, homelessness, isolation and other struggles, according to a press release.
The Eatontown-based nonprofit is delivering its signature interactive holiday party at a variety of locations including soup kitchens, homeless shelters and special needs programs with a troupe of volunteer musicians and singers, along with Santa and Mrs. Claus, their elves and costumed characters.
In addition to live music and the entertaining characters, each party includes meals, festive activities and gift bags filled with socks, hats, gloves, toiletries and other essential items, all donated.
Holiday Express is also providing organizations still impacted by the coronavirus pandemic taped concerts and food and gift drop-offs, said Eileen Higgins, the newly appointed executive director of Holiday Express and a 20-year member of the volunteer Board of Directors.
“We are thrilled to celebrate our 30th season of delivering the gift of human kindness to nearly 30,000 people,” she said.
Higgins said the nonprofit relies on 2,500 volunteers and the generosity of donors to make the holidays special for the most vulnerable individuals in the tri-state region.
The holiday shows at the Basie Center, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Dec. 19 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 20, are a significant fundraiser for Holiday Express, according to the press release.
“We are glad to be back in person at the Basie after the pandemic put us on hold for two years,” said McLoone, who will lead the band of 50 professional musicians and singers on stage as they share their unique mix of traditional, gospel, and rock and soul holiday music.
McLoone said Jersey Shore guitarist and singer Jim Celestino will be back as Dr. Elmo, best known for his Christmas novelty song “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.”
The concerts will also feature guest appearances by costumed characters and a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus. The benefit concerts are presented by Stillwell-Hansen Inc. and Investors Bank.
Tickets are available at the Basie Center box office, 99 Monmouth St., Red Bank, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, or by calling 732-842-9000.
To learn more about volunteering or supporting Holiday Express, visit www.holidayexpress.org.