Perhaps she should be renamed “Santa Sherri.”
For the past decade, Sherri Cecchini, her husband, Lou, and their staff at Off Shore Marine in Branchville have sailed in to the Project Self-Sufficiency campus to deliver a boatload of toys. Because of the pandemic, this year’s numbers were a little lower. But last Wednesday, undaunted, they towed in a 22-foot-long 2020 Nautique GS22 sport boat brimming with toys.
“Our wonderful first responders and civic organizations stepped in, as always,” Cecchini said. “But this year, we saw a huge outpouring of community members participating as well to help us collect toys.”
A path was even cleared so that children delivering gifts for those in need could put them on the boat.
“It made the kids really feel a part of something special,” Cecchini said.
The Stuff the Boat effort is coordinated by Off Shore Marine in conjunction with members of the fire departments in Branchville, Sussex, and Frankford, along with the Blue Ridge Rescue Squad, the Sussex Fire Department Emergency Medical Service, the Sussex Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary, the Wanderers Car Club, and the Sussex Kiwanis Club.
“Especially given the challenges of this year, it is just so heartwarming that this project went on,” said Deborah Berry-Toon, Executive Director of Project Self-Sufficiency. “It speaks to the essence of the Season of Hope and our annual Toy Shop. Thousands of families in our area will be helped by this initiative.”
Boat ‘docks’ early this year
The Season of Hope Toy Drive benefits thousands of children in Sussex and Northern Warren counties. The effort is piloted by Project Self-Sufficiency, along with its partners First Hope Bank, Gravity DesignWorks, Intercar Mercedes Benz, Max 106.3FM, The New Jersey Herald, Off Shore Marine, Pass it Along, The Printing Center, Selective Insurance Company of America, Shop Rite, Stocker Bus Company, the Sussex County Chamber of Commerce, Sussex County Community College, Sussex Honda, Sussex Technical School, United States Marine Corps Toys for Tots, WNNJ 103.7FM, and WSUS 102.3FM.
“We believe in the opportunities Project Self-Sufficiency offers to the people it serves which allow them to create a better life for themselves and their families,” Cecchini said. “The toy drive is just one part of that vision and that is where we try to help.”
Since everything is being done a bit earlier because of the pandemic, the boat arrived a few weeks ahead of its usual “docking.”
“We’re still collecting, but wanted to do the big delivery today,” Cecchini said.
Contributions of gift cards and new, unwrapped toys for the Stuff the Boat campaign will be welcomed at Off Shore Marine, 352 Route 206 in Branchville through Sunday, Dec. 20. New toys, gift cards and monetary donations will also be gratefully received at Project Self-Sufficiency, 127 Mill St. in Newton, from Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; or Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. To make a donation online, or for more information, visit projectselfsufficiency.org or call 973-940-3500.
“We believe in the opportunities Project Self-Sufficiency offers to the people it serves which allow them to create a better life for themselves and their families. The toy drive is just one part of that vision and that is where we try to help.” Sherri Cecchini