Tim McLoone (seen presiding over the annual Town Lighting concert in downtown Red Bank) conducts the Holiday Express band back into station stop Basie for a pair of public-welcome shows on December 19 and 20 — with an all-aboard for volunteer “warehouse elves” at the nonprofit’s Tinton Falls facility.
VIP-level attendees at many Count Basie Theatre events have never been averse to paying as much as several hundred dollars over base ticket price, to enjoy such perks as premium seating, autographed tour souvenirs, and personal meet-and-greet opportunities with the featured attractions. But as far as Tim McLoone and Holiday Express are concerned, there are some ultra-exclusive events that remain off limits at any price.
It isn’t because you’re not cool enough, connected enough, or cash-money enough to score tickets. It’s just that admission to those performances is available to you only if you’re one of the more than 15,000 residents of regional homeless shelters, psychiatric hospitals, developmental centers, children’s wards and other places that form the heart of the Holiday Express itinerary — places whose residents are often without any family or friends, and whose sole ray of light is that annual visit by the big jinglebell juggernaut of a band.
Fortunately for the rest of us, the Express regularly detours from its tight timetable at this time each year, to play a double-header of fundraiser shows at station stop Basie; a tradition that continues this coming Monday and Tuesday, December 19 and 20.
Scheduled for 8 p.m., the early-week shows represent a 24th annual mid-tour opportunity for the general public to support the ongoing programs of the nonprofit, non-denominational, all-volunteer organization of which the big-band locomotive is merely “that part that makes the most noise.” The energizing engine is of course backed up by a formidable freight-train of volunteer support personnel, drivers, techies — and the “warehouse elves” who process gifts and other donations at the Holiday Express facility (938 Shrewsbury Avenue in Tinton Falls).
Expect Frosty, the Grinch and Santa to make their customary appearances on the Basie boards, accompanied by a winter-wonderwall soundtrack that ranges from the solemnly sacred (“Silent Night”) to the secularly silly (“Disco Santa”) — then take it here to reserve tickets to either of the shows on Monday or Tuesday.
There’s still time, by the way, to sign up and assist the Holiday Express team in sorting, processing and preparing donated gift items for distribution at the organization’s numerous scheduled events throughout the region. Every weekday from now until Christmas, volunteer adult “elves” (ages 18 and up) are welcomed between the hours of 9:30 a.m. and 12 p.m. Junior volunteers below the age of 18 are welcome to lend an assist weekdays from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., with adult chaperones also welcome to lend a hand during those hours (no sign-up required).
In addition,Kids and adults are welcome to join the Warehouse Elf brigade for evening hours (Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays) that run from 6 to 7:30 p.m. through next week’s run-up to Christmas. To sign up as a warehouse volunteer:
1. Go to www.holidayexpress4.org
2. On the left side of the screen, you will see all the available dates to volunteer in the warehouse
3. Click on the date/time you would like to volunteer
4. Fill out your information (Two people cannot have the same information. You have to give a separate name, email and phone number for each volunteer)
5. If you have a group, larger than 5, you must call the office, (732)544-8010, to set up a time to come in.
Holiday Express reports that “Parking has become a problem here. Please do not take up spots that are designated for the other businesses in the complex. During the day, please do not block the dumpsters. If you cannot find parking in our lot please park next door in the Acme lot or across the street at the south end of the Marshall’s Plaza. Use the crosswalk when crossing the street.”
Prospective volunteers looking to assist with specific events can check back with the Holiday Express website for updated information on the 2016 schedule, as the information becomes available.