The Fifth Annual Hoboken Christmas Exchange was this past weekend and we were blown away by the outpouring of love that was shown. This event was started just a few years ago to make sure that no child or senior citizen went without a gift on Christmas. The mission is simple: collect and distribute gifts to those in need for Christmas. We partner with organizations in Hoboken and surrounding areas to identify needs in our community and collect wish lists from families. Donors are able to “adopt” a family and drop off the gifts from their wish lists for the recipients to then pick up. This year, we had 660 total donors and 383 volunteers participating in this event! It was such an incredible sight to see.
Each and every single volunteer that signs up helps to make this event special. There is an atmosphere of love and excitement because this event is truly community focused. “Everyone is here because they want to be. People who don’t even go to church are here to volunteer,” remarks one of the “elves”. By the end of the day on Saturday afternoon, the entire space at 301 Garden Street was filled wall to wall with gifts. We had over 3,300 participate in this years exchange and what better way to kick off the Christmas season than with a story of genuine love and countless acts of selfless giving, it is truly amazing to see.
Before the doors open, two bright-faced youngsters are waiting outside. Nine-year-old Karas and his 6-year-old brother countdown the minutes until the doors open in anticipation. Karas stays warm in a jet-black Converse jacket he received here last Christmas. Though you wouldn’t remember that detail about him, you’d remember his excitement as he waited for the doors to open. Karas has asked for a dirt bike and shoes, his brother asked for a remote-controlled monster truck. The brothers wait anxiously in line with their mother and two younger siblings.
Cheers erupt when the doors are finally opened, and as they walk through the decorated halls, each one is smiling ear to ear, and volunteer elves run through rows of presents to collect gifts for each family.
It reminded me of the way the shepherds must have felt. The first Christmas was marked by the excited whispers of young boys as they ran off into a star-filled night to find the newborn savior. They were going to see something marvelous.
In just 36 hours, the Hoboken Christmas Exchange collected and distributed gifts to hundreds of families and more than 2,400 gifts within our community. Utilizing the 660 donors, and 383 volunteers who gave their time and money to help show God’s love to a stranger by being part of this marvelous event … but those are just numbers. The most important part of the event is how the gift of Christmas spilled out from that room and overflowed into the streets of Hoboken and beyond.
We get to celebrate the single best gift in the history of humankind by giving others a small taste of what it’s like to know Jesus. The Hoboken Christmas Exchange isn’t about presents, it’s about loving our community. It’s about bringing people together and meeting the needs of people within our community, it’s about sharing joy and experiencing the gift of Christmas together.
To those of you who gave of your time, money, and love to make the Hoboken Christmas Exchange happen, thank you! And to those who missed out, we’ll just say what the shepherds said to each other two thousand years ago, “Let’s go and see the thing that has happened!” And be sure to join us next year because there’s always room for more love.