Hundreds of children and adults in need across the Jersey Shore area now have warm coats thanks to a VNA Health Group employee who last month, single-handedly organized a coat drive that also expanded to include a collection of donated books.
Kelly Gray is a program assistant with the VNA Health Group Children and Family Health Institute and decided to organize a coat drive after she discovered some families in Seaside Heights did not have resources to purchase winter coats.
In early December, Kelly distributed flyers throughout VNA’s many office locations requesting her fellow employees consider donating new or gently-used coats. A short time later, her efforts evolved to include book donations as well.
"We received donations from employees and residents of Monmouth and Ocean Counties specifically in Toms River, Holmdel, Tinton Falls, Brick, Avon, Middletown, Lakewood, Atlantic Highlands, and Bernardsville-- just to name a few!" Kelly explained. "Staff from our VNACJ Community Health Center (CHC) and our access center donated new coats as well. One of the organizations that County Councils for Young Children (CCYC) works closely with called Bridge of Books donated 650 books."
In an effort to gather as many donations as possible, Kelly expanded her outreach to her church parish center, St. Leo the Great in Lincroft. Not long after, she received a call from a 7th grade CCD teacher who inquired how her class could contribute to Kelly’s effort. Within ten days, students and teachers of the St. Leo CCD classes contributed 250 coats and 700 books.
"They organized the coats by size and gender which was such a help. I was so overwhelmed by the amazing outpouring of support from the community," Kelly said.
Kelly began her career at VNA Health Group in July 2016 as an intern for The Children and Family Health Institute’s CCYC and Early Intervention programs. After her internship had ended, she was hired as a Program Assistant for both programs.
CCYC is a statewide program that provides outreach families to encourage them to work with public and private organizations to improve their communities. VNA Health Group runs CCYC in Monmouth and Ocean Counties.
We applaud Kelly for her efforts that led to hundreds of children and adults receiving warm coats to wear and books to read. In the end, 394 new and gently-used coats were donated through the drive and were distributed to families who needed them.