Shillelagh holiday charity continues despite COVID-19

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Friendly Sons of the Shillelagh sign in Belmar

BELMAR — COVID-19 has left its mark on the Friendly Sons of Shillelagh’s holiday charitable efforts, with the group changing their annual traditions to help those in the community in need.

Bill Ryan, president of the Belmar chapter of the Friendly Sons of Shillelagh of the Jersey Shore, said that traditionally the organization hands out around 200 bags of food each year. On Friday, the Friendly Sons of Shillelagh will hold their annual food drive, but instead of handing families bags full of Thanksgiving staples instead, they will be handed gift cards to buy food at grocery stores in an attempt to limit the spread of the virus.

“We still want to help the community and we still want to do those things,” Mr. Ryan said about the food drive and the toy drive. “With the pandemic and people being out of work, and financially strapped right now there are more people who need it now than in the past.” Every year, he said, around 60 families from Belmar Elementary School are referred to the organization for help during the food drive. This year, Mr. Ryan said, the group expects a list of 92 families from the district that need help.

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“Hopefully we will be able to respond as we always have and take care of the people that request it,” he added.

Craig Coyle, vice president of the organization, said that the organization will begin distributing ShopRite gift cards on Friday and continue through the weekend in Belmar and throughout Monmouth County. This year, he said, the organization has been able to raise around $20,000 from it’s 1,350 members in Belmar to go towards the food drive.

Over the decades, the organization has raised more than $1 million for families in need in the area.

“We knew the guidelines were going to restrict us from doing a lot of handling so we wanted to make sure we protected our members as well as people we are providing food or gifts too,” he said.

Along with families in Belmar referred to the organization by the elementary school, the Friendly Sons of Shillelagh have also been provided lists of individuals in need from nonprofit organizations in the county.

Every year, the group also holds a toy drive and members visit children at Jersey Shore Medical Center dressed as Santa Claus and elves. While the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that this year members will not be able to visit the hospital, the Friendly Sons of Shillelagh are trying to make sure the children still have something to look forward to.

This year, Mr. Coyle said, the organization will be providing those children with gaming systems to help them pass the time while they are in the hospital. The gaming systems, he said, can be rotated from room to room while in the hospital. Their goal is to provide four of these gaming systems along with a regular assortment of gifts.

The group hopes to make the toy deliveries on Dec. 19, 20 and 21. Those who would like to make a donation to the organization may do so online at https://www.paypal.com/donate/?hosted_button_id=3TJARFWG665MN or by sending a check to the foundation at FSOS Foundation PO Box 627 Belmar, NJ 07719.

Those who have questions may contact the organization at fsosfoundation@gmail.com.

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