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The Hoboken Christmas Exchange: Restoring the Holiday Spirit

The Hoboken Christmas Exchange all started with one person’s desire to love their community through selfless giving. And in its first year, Hoboken Grace was able to partner with Kara Cohen to impact close to 1,000 people.

It was an emotional night last Saturday as families needing a little extra help this holiday season came to 301 Garden St. to pick up gifts. Our Hoboken community “adopted” families in the area and filled our Sunday morning space with presents. In addition to gifts, families were greeted with hot chocolate, homemade cookies and the chance to have a family portrait taken.

Julisa, from the Heights section of Jersey City, came with her young daughter, Keilani. She was in tears while talking about the evening. “This event was so overwhelmingly beautiful,” she said. Julisa has spent a lot of time indoors with her daughter, who was born blind in one eye. “Kids used to make fun of her, so she was scared of leaving the house. Now she has more confidence after getting an ocular prosthetic,” explained Julisa. It was beautiful to see this shy little girl smile as she took her gift.

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Maritza and daughter Angeline found out about the Gift Exchange from Angeline’s school and were very excited to be part of it. “It’s hard for me because I have four children and am unemployed because of medical reasons,” said Maritza. “My husband is also disabled. This year has been the hardest, but I am so thankful for events like this one in the community. This is such a nice thing to do when there is so much negativity going on in the world right now.”

Raycine traveled all the way from Brooklyn with her three children, Darrion, Raniyah and Dezire. “I just got out of an abusive relationship with the father of my children. I have been emotionally drained and hopeless for a while,” said Raycine. “Events like this give me hope and remind me that God is good. My friend Kara made it so easy for me to get here. She took care of everything.”

Kara Cohen, the main organizer of the Gift Exchange, was at a loss for words much of the night. “I have been crying since the event started,” she said. Kara was there as a parent received a dining room table and met with Pastor Chris to thank him.
“I don’t think she was expecting the table,” Kara said. “She was so happy when she saw her present. Her happiness and thankfulness made everyone emotional.”

Asked what inspired her to start this wonderful initiative, Kara said that she has been loved unconditionally and just wants other people to experience that love. We can’t wait to do this again next year! It was an amazing way to restore the true holiday spirit of giving.

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