ELIZABETH, NJ — The annual Citywide Winter Fest Toy Give-a-Way took place at AMC Jersey Gardens 20 in the Mills at Jersey Gardens on Saturday, Dec. 10, bringing residents together to kick off the holiday season. The event was hosted by Councilwoman Patricia Perkins-Auguste, who has organized it for 22 years. Guest speakers included Elizabeth Mayor J. Christian Bollwage and Elizabeth Board of Education member Stanley Neron. This event was put together with the help of the Elizabeth Office of Youth Services.
“My goal has always been to encourage young people to celebrate Christmas, or whatever holiday they celebrate, as long as they’re enjoying the holidays,” Bollwage said.
The AMC hosted 1,000 people in three separate theaters to watch “Minions: The Rise of Gru,” followed by a toy giveaway and a meet-and-greet with Santa Claus.
“AMC Theatres has collaborated with the Elizabeth Office of Youth Services and the city to host these events for the past 18 years. They are the only theater that is big enough to host these families,” Bollwage told Union County LocalSource at the event on Saturday, Dec. 10.
This year marks 18 years of participating in this event for Bollwage, as well, as he began collaborating with Perkins-Auguste to put it together once he took office.
“With the help of Councilwoman Auguste putting this event on every year outside of COVID-19, we have served over 20,000 people in Elizabeth since we’ve started this event,” Bollwage said.
The Elizabeth Office of Youth Services also handed out knapsacks filled with water bottles and holiday-season essentials for families. And they distributed cookies for families to enjoy at home after the event.
“Some families may only get to watch one movie this year, so I want them to have the opportunity to have food, drinks, etc., and enjoy the movie.” Bollwage said. “Families will also get the chance to see Santa later, receive toys and other resources that they need.”
In addition to the knapsack giveaway and the line to greet Santa, the Office of Youth Services had gathered more than 1,000 toys to donate to boys and girls at the event. There was a snow station for children to play in and appreciate the joys of a winter wonderland.
“We are looking forward to many more years of putting this celebration together,” Bollwage said.
Photos by Javon Ross