Bridge at Cherry Hill plays Santa for Johnston family


As the holidays came around, Maryann Grace, the general manager at The Bridge at Cherry Hill, began thinking about what the facility could do to give back. Around Thanksgiving, they reached out to Tri-Town Community Action Program and asked how they could help.

Tri-Town responded, and told Grace and Activities Director Gayle Raposa that they had more than 300 families that would indeed need help during the holidays.

“We told them we’d adopt a family,” Raposa said Tuesday morning. “We took a Johnston family ... mother and father and two children ages 5 and 7. They gave us a wish list and we made copies and sent them to all members of our staff.”

From the time the Bridge’s staffers received the list until late last week, Grace and Raposa learned they probably could have taken on more families, given the outcome of what Raposa called “an unbelievable outpouring of support.”

Tuesday morning, Grace, Raposa and other staffers were teary eyed as The Bridge presented Tri-Town with everything from new toys to clothing and food.

“This is absolutely an emotional time,” Grace said Tuesday. “It’s the season of giving, especially after what transpired last Friday. It’s been very emotional ... we’re more than happy to help a family in need.”

Grace, her voice cracking with emotion, went on to say that they collected an “awesome” amount of toys and food for the family.

“There’s no Grinch here at The Bridge at Cherry Hill. We’ve loaded up our sleigh with toys for a family of two girls,” she said. “We all feel very, very fortunate to work here and when you can help a family out, especially one with small children, that makes you feel very good.”

The Bridge at Cherry Hill presented Tri-Town Community Action Program case managers Sellina Guertin and Kathy Guertin with a collection of new and wrapped toys, coats, boots and food during a moving ceremony in the facility’s library.

“The emphasis was on coats and just basic needs, but we gave toys ... our people gave more than what was on the list,” Raposa said.

The Bridge assembled a large food basket and used cash donations to purchase gift cards to stores like Wal-Mart and Target.

Given the response, the program will likely grow next year.

“We’ll possibly do more,” Raposa said. “But this year, the outpouring of support for our adopted family was incredible ... absolutely extraordinary.”

Tri-Town Community Action Program is in charge of distribution of any donations of gifts, food and clothing. The identities of families served by the agency remain anonymous. They do, however, inform donors of first names, allowing them to personalize gift tags.

“All we know is the first name of the family members,” Raposa said. “That makes it more personal for us. This way we can put her name on it and it will obviously have more meaning.”

Tuesday morning, Grace couldn’t say enough good things about her staff.

“Each and every person pitched in and did a great job. This will make Christmas special for all of us,” she said.


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