When Christine Bae learned that one of her favorite knick-knack stores at the Garden State Plaza mall was going out of business last year, her charitable instincts kicked in.
She and her husband bought all the remaining inventory for more than $10,000 from Flying Tiger Copenhagen, which she described as "IKEA but with small toys and crafts."
Thus began a year-long effort to give 3,000 toy cars, models, building blocks, coloring sets and more to needy kids during the holiday season.
"I just thought that since they're going out of business, we might as well make the best of it," Bae said.
There are countless toy drives this holiday season where the generosity of everyday New Jersey residents is on full display. But few may match the efforts of Bae and her neighbors.
On Saturday, Bae invited neighbors to her Norwood home who spent weeks wrapping this year's donation of 1,250 gifts that will be picked up Monday by workers for The New Jersey Institute for Disabilities in Edison. A local pastor spoke to those gathered about Jesus Christ and acts of charity, especially around Christmas.
Plans for the donations were hatched long before this holiday season.
For years the Fort Lee law firm she runs with her husband, B.J. Kim, has thrown a fundraising party around the holidays to raise money for an orphanage in Korea and a domestic violence shelter in Bergen County. The first year, the party raised $800. By 2019, the event netted $22,000, Bae said.
COVID-19 forced the party's cancellation last year and this year.
But Bae saw an opportunity for charity when she saw Flying Tiger Copenhagen was closing its Paramus location. They negotiated a price for the inventory and soon Bae was making four trips in her large SUV between the store and her home.
This year a dozen or so neighbors came over to her house to wrap presents for three to four hours a day, three days a week for three weeks.
"There were some nights we were up until midnight wrapping," Bae said Saturday.
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The remaining gifts will be stored in their Norwood home until next December when they will be hauled out and the wrapping will begin again.
Scott Fallon has covered the COVID-19 pandemic since its onset in March 2020. To get unlimited access to the latest news about the pandemic's impact on New Jersey, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: New Jersey family purchases 3,000 toys for needy kids