Turning Tragedy into Charity
Bruce Jones was just 3 years old when in 1991 his 19-year old sister Jennifer died suddenly.
He would grow up in Beachwood as an only child but his sister’s memory was kept alive by his parents who would tell him often about how kind and generous she was. His father Bruce even helped start and build a memorial garden for children at Winding River Park in Toms River.
However young Bruce always knew that at some point he would do something on his own and the inspiration was Superstorm Sandy. Out of work from his job in Atlantic City and sitting in his parent’s living room he came up with the idea of a holiday toy drive for the victims of the devastating storm.
Most of the donations came from family and friends and the toys were donated to local families and a community shelter. However even more importantly Jenni’s Toys was born and eight years later it has grown from a small grass-roots campaign to a pending 501(c) (3) charity that keeps her memory very much alive while giving those in need toys, clothes, food and more during the holiday season.
Bruce and his wife Kelly now live in Woodbridge along with their six-month old son Jake. While they have always used Jenni’s Toys as a way to impact the community they are living in he has never forgotten his roots.
This year they have “adopted” 41 families to receive help during the holidays and 19 of them are from Ocean County, they are also helping 81 foster kids. They come to him through community outreach, word of mouth and other contacts.
Through donations of money as well as items purchased through an Amazon list their team of volunteers puts together complete customized care packages for the families they are helping like toys, games, clothes, electronics, household items, food, gift cards and more. In the middle of December those packages are then delivered to the families.
They are always in need of donations whether it be money or if you prefer you can purchase an item needed through the wish list. The easiest way to do this is through their website jennistoys.org. While it surrounds the holiday season Bruce is always looking for ways to expand and grow this effort and hopefully when things return to normal he can put together other methods of fundraising.
For now he’s thrilled to be able to make the holiday season better for others in the name of his beloved sister.