TOY SALVATION: TECH STUDENTS, SALVATION ARMY PACK UP CHRISTMAS GIFTS

Joseph P. Smith, The Daily Journal, Published 7:22 p.m. ET Dec. 18, 2017

MILLVILLE - Every Christmas calls for a miracle when you’re in the business of helping people to celebrate the holiday.  This year, the Vineland office of the Salvation Army is getting help from a student group at The John F. Scarpa Cumberland County Technical Education Center.

On Monday morning, Salvation Army Majors (and husband and wife) Miguel and America Barriera swung by the College Drive campus to collect hundreds of toys assembled over the last several weeks through a drive mounted by the center’s Interact Club.  The club is only in its second year, with about 85 members, and is sponsored by Rotary clubs in Vineland and Bridgeton. For Christmas 2016, members did a toy drive for the Bridgeton office of the Salvation Army.

This year, the goal was to supply toys for 150 families in Vineland, Millville and Port Norris. The Vineland Salvation Army office is responsible for those communities.  “This year, we have a difficult time,” said Miguel Barriera.  The office has identified about 250 needy families, including about 25 families recently arrived from Puerto Rico. The new arrivals, getting away from the storm-damaged island, arrived with little or no belongings, he said.  “It’s very heart warming, I would say, because you give gifts to those who need it,” sophomore Ariana Torres of Vineland said. “And it’s a nice experience.”  “It’s very nice,” sophomore Nyleah Brown of Vineland said. “You get to give back to kids.”

The club, like the center, is only two years in existence. Many sophomore club members took part as freshman, too.  Teachers Tim Campbell and Sarah Bernhardt are the club’s advisers.  “We had a great group of freshman who continued on as sophomores,” said Bernhardt. “They’re an awesome group.”  “A lot of our students went out with their parents on weekends, bought all the toys with their own money,” Campbell said. “We had several businesses donate money as well. … And the rest was just parents, families, a lot of our teachers here at TEC.”

“We try to make kids happy,” said sophomore Chloe Swift, a Millville resident and Interact secretary.  Swift said most members picked a family at random and some had something specific in mind.  “And other kids, they were like, ‘Oh! I want a little girl,’” Swift said. “So, we went through and found a little girl. … Or, they wanted a boy and a girl. And we catered to people who wanted that.”Top of Form

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Tess Klugewicz and Ally Lorence, sophomores from Vineland, said the drive was smoother this year.  “We kind of learned from our mistakes from last year,” Lorence said. “Like, we alphabetized all the tags beforehand this year.”  “We hope they have a really good Christmas and this was really fun for us to do,” Klugewicz said. “And we encourage them to give back to the community just like we have.”

Joseph P. Smith; @jpsmith_dj; (856) 563-5252; jsmith@gannettnj.com