Andrew Guage Aliperti from the YMCA’s Counseling & Social Services team prepares to deliver warm coats donated by the community to children.

Press release from the YMCA of Greater Monmouth County

While no one wants to hear the words COVID and Christmas in the same sentence, it looks like the pandemic is going to have a real impact on the holidays and gift drives for needy families in 2020.

The YMCA of Greater Monmouth County’s Counseling & Social Services team has kicked off its annual Adopt-A-Family holiday gift drive, and this year it features a different kind of fundraising effort: a “virtual giving tree.”

Because of the pandemic, the Y is asking members, businesses, and residents to purchase gift cards from a “virtual tree” instead of buying toys and other items for families in need. Also new to the annual giving program is a winter coat drive.

In years past, community members adopted a family or child and helped provide gifts on their wish list, while local businesses sponsored “giving trees” and encouraged their employees to choose a tag with a child’s request and then purchase gifts and toys for them.

This year, local businesses and organizations are invited to host coat drives to gather new winter coats that will be distributed to local children and adults.

“Every year, the need is real,” said YMCA President and CEO Laurie Goganzer. “This year, families need even more support because of impacts of the pandemic.”

Goganzer estimates that more than 650 families in communities served by the Y will require assistance during the holidays. These families have been identified and are served by the Y’s Counseling & Social Services team.

“The Y’s purpose is to support and strengthen families. The annual gift drive helps us deliver the joy of the holiday season to the most vulnerable children and families in our community,” Goganzer said. In 2019, she noted, the Y distributed more than $60,000 in gifts to over 600 children served by the Y, thanks to donations from the community.

The Knights of Columbus Council 3402 in Keyport signed on to support the Y’s efforts by donating 30 coats to help ensure that young children will have warm coats this winter.

Grand Knight Wayne Szaro said the Knights of Columbus purpose since its founding in 1882 has been charitable support.

“During these unusual times of the pandemic our motto has become ‘leave no neighbor behind.’ We Knights have always looked to help the most vulnerable in our society. Young children having a warm coat to go to school and play in has always been, and always will be, a priority for our order,” Szaro said.

Goganzer said the Y is grateful for the community’s support. “The Y is always here for our community and we appreciate the community’s generosity during this unprecedented health crisis to bring smiles to the faces of needy children and the families we serve.”

The YMCA of Greater Monmouth County has continued its efforts to support community needs throughout the pandemic with expanded child care, mental health support and counseling, blood drives, and food drives, as well as COVID-19 testing, Goganzer noted.

To make the holiday giving easy and convenient for donors, gift cards may be purchased online through December 10. Businesses interested in supporting the coat drive may contact Alicia Maresco at or call 732-497-3811, ext. 734.

For more information about the holiday gift drive or YMCA programs, visit