Monthly Archives: November 2022

Healing and winning back her kids: Angela’s story

Angela was separated from her 4 children because of the mental health and substance abuse problems she suffered. ⠀

She quickly went to Family Connections for help. There, she received treatment, received mental health support, and secured housing. ⠀

Angela took every program seriously— she was determined to heal herself and be reunited with her children.⠀

Today, Angela is reunited with her children after 2 and a half years of treatment. For the first time in a while, she is hopeful and optimistic about their future together.

One in 25 Americans suffer from mental health disorders, and half of them also struggle with substance abuse. The road to recovery is a constant battle against oneself. It is far from easy. But Angela fought to overcome these odds so that she could be with her children again.

Her counselors at Family Connections are a key part of her story. They couldn’t be more proud of her for the dedication she showed towards her family and her health. We wish Angela and her children all the best!

Original story taken from

How Generosity Restores Dignity for Survivors of Violence

In these uncertain times, we can all relate to the feeling of fear or anxiety.

But for some, it is a daily occurrence after surviving a violent crime, especially when sometimes the source of that fear lives under the same roof.

Sadly, more than 1 in 4 New Jersey men and women will experience a violent assault in their lifetime.

And in 29% of these cases, children are involved.

But they do not have to suffer through its aftermath alone. 

At the Greater Newark Holiday Fund, we are grateful that our partner agencies – like Family Service League of Essex County – are there to help.

Ways the Family Service League Helps

They provide confidential and respectful trauma responses to individuals and families across New Jersey.

Last year, reported on a college freshman who was attacked by their classmate:

When a college freshman ended up in ER after being assaulted by another classmate, a compassionate advocate from Family Service League was called to help. The advocate provided information, referrals, and support to the survivor.

FSL advocates also provide tangible resources like clothing, water, food, and toiletries to replace what is collected as evidence. They may be small items, but they are crucial to restoring the dignity of victims.

Like FSL, our other allied agencies are acting for survivors of assaults. They include Family Connection’s Domestic Violence Services and the Jewish Family Services’ Rachel Coalition.

With one step at a time, we can work to reduce the fear and uncertainty that victims of assault feel every day.

When you support the Holiday Fund, these wonderful organizations will receive the funding they need to continue advocating for survivors of violence.

How to Love Those Living with Anxiety

An unwanted trend as of late is that depression and anxiety is increasing among adults in the United States. How can we support those closest to us who may be struggling? 

Keep reading as we explore programs and practical advice to help you support those you love who are struggling with anxiety.

Help loved ones with anxiety by finding moments of connection and peace.
Woman peacefully looks out window


When someone you love is suffering, it can be hard to know the right thing to do. But here’s the good news: you don’t have to know all of the answers. There are experts who are trained and equipped to help. 

Thankfully—for those in the NJ area—there are proven, helpful, and accessible treatment options for you, no matter your background or income. Many of the agencies supported by the Holiday Fund serve individuals living with mental illness. Here are a few of the programs offered:

In addition to reaching out to professionals, take this great advice that’s been published by NFSB for families who are loving someone who struggles specifically with anxiety.

Read more: A story of healing—Meet Isaac and Hillory

To help loved ones with anxiety, make frequent connections.
Man talks to loved one on phone

4 Helpful Steps to Supporting Someone With Anxiety

1. Steer clear of the phrase “anxiety.”

Instead of accusing someone of anxiety, a kinder approach could encourage someone to express their emotions more freely. Anxiety can occasionally be relieved by just talking to a friend or family member.

2. Promote self-care efforts.

Considering the close relationship between one’s physical, mental, and emotional health, taking better care of oneself is beneficial for almost every ailment. Find ways to engage individuals in activities that not only include physical activity but also nurture their souls and promote peace.

3. Implement or re-establish good routines.

People who struggle with anxiety, depression, or any other form of mental illness, are buoyed by routines. Remind your loved one to establish a pattern once more by encouraging them to get up at a certain time, eat breakfast, get the kids ready for school, eat lunch, exercise, etc.

4. Remain in touch frequently.

Just connect—whether it’s by phone, text, or Facetime. Be sensitive to your loved one’s preferences since “live” discussions can sometimes provoke anxiety. The point isn’t to fix them, it’s to connect in such a way as to express interest and care.


When families combine the professional help made available with the practical steps outlined here, individuals who are living with anxiety can begin to experience healing and hope. 

Will you support the organizations in New Jersey that are making an impact on families and individuals living with mental illness? One donation helps each of the 11 agencies supported by the Holiday Fund. Make a difference with a gift today.

St. Lucy’s shelter provides homeless woman refuge and a renewed dream

“You didn’t feel homeless, you didn’t feel different. You were just a person.”

When Yvette Alexander suddenly fell ill with seizures and syncope, she could no longer work.

Her savings and pensions could only sustain her for so long before she became homeless and had to seek refuge at a shelter.

She shares a room with 30 other people but doesn’t mind it at all. Given her seizures, the company makes her feel that she’s looked out for.

Through the shelter, Yvette lives an otherwise normal life in spite of her health condition.

Being treated with dignity has fueled her desire to get back on her own two feet.

On the topic of her future, Yvette said, “3 months from now, I see myself in my own apartment, paying for my own food and grocery shopping. Although I can’t go out and work because I am totally disabled, I want to be able to help other people find their own destiny.”

“I’d like to come back here and help others find their potential… with a shoulder, a smile or a kind word… the same way the people here helped me.”

Would you join us in showing compassion for those who have fallen on hard times?

Original story taken from Hudson County View

3 Practical Ways to Reduce Anxiety for Kids

Practical ways to detect and reduce anxiety for kids, and direct families to helpful resources.

Mental health struggles were already at an all-time high in 2019. But since the onset of the COVID pandemic, those numbers have skyrocketed—particularly among kids.

For example, according to Mental Health America data:

  • A growing percentage of youth in the U.S. live with major depression.
  • Over 2.5 million youth in the U.S. have severe depression, and multiracial youth are at the greatest risk.
  • Over 60% of youth with major depression do not receive any mental health treatment. 

How can we help those who are struggling? What about those closest to us? Keep reading for some very practical advice.

Reduce anxiety for kids by making family connections.
 Family bakes together


Do you know the signs of depression and anxiety in kids of different ages? Both can look like crabbiness, fatigue, or extreme excitement. But whose kids aren’t all of these things at one point or another?

As explained in this article published by the University of New Hampshire, the difference is that “we all get these feelings every now and then. But if these feelings are persistent, it could suggest anxiety or depression, which are often related, especially among children.”

According to the Mental Health Association of New Jersey, one of our partners, here are the signs to look for when considering whether or not the child in your life could benefit from mental health services:

  • Behavioral changes, such as mood swings, aggression, temper tantrums, and crying spells
  • Bedwetting
  • Headaches and stomach aches
  • Constant worrying or negative thoughts
  • Decreased or increased appetite
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Lack of energy
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Struggling with or refusing to go to school
  • Social withdrawal and isolation

If the youth in your life is exhibiting any of these signs persistently, please contact one of the certified agencies listed on our Greater Newark Holiday Fund website, like Mental Health Association in New Jersey, FamilyConnections, Nutley Family Service Bureau, or Catholic Charities of Newark. They are prepared to give you the direction needed. 

In the meantime, Nutley Family Service Bureau has shared some practical advice for helping to reduce the anxiety of kids in your life. Here are some wise points shared in the article How You Can Help Kids Overcome a Two-Year Buildup of Covid Anxiety

Inspiring stories: Catholic Charities worker inspires client’s sister to pursue social work

Making fun memories will reduce anxiety for kids.
Mother and daughter take photos.

3 Practical Ways to Reduce Anxiety in Kids

1. Parents: Practice Positive Habits

The most crucial thing parents and other adults can do to reduce children’s worry is to improve their anxiety management. Children’s environments have a big influence on them. They can sense the emotions of the adults in their immediate vicinity. 

2. Keep Routines

Establish routines and structure at home to create a sense of normalcy. For example, institute or keep routines that include:

  • Keeping busy and exercising regularly each day
  • Ensuring that you get enough sleep
  • Consuming balanced meals daily
  • Setting sensible objectives
  • Trying to be optimistic
  • Preparing for problems, but not dwelling on issues that are beyond your control
  • Maintaining contact with friends and relatives
  • Setting aside time for enjoyable activities

By managing what is under your control, routines produce a predictable sense of safety. 

3. Find Ways to Connect

Even while technology is a part of our lives and may keep kids in touch with peers, setting screen time limits can be beneficial. Parents may stop their children from becoming engrossed in what they see on social media and other platforms by setting a reasonable time limit for screen use. For instance, worry frequently arises from comparing oneself to what others do and how they appear.

Instead, find opportunities for your family to come together. Play games, go outside, or watch a movie with your friends. 

You might be saying, “But the kids always fight, or the family disagrees on which activity to pursue!” Our advice is: do it anyway. There will naturally be arguments and confrontations during these interactions, but it’s crucial to be mindful of your language, tone, and volume. Children should learn that disagreements can be handled amicably and respectfully.

Did you know that hanging out together as a family is key to reducing anxiety and depression in children? Yes, togetherness can bring tension and disagreements, but this is OK! Handled respectfully, this is a good lesson for kids to learn,… Share on X


We hope that you seek out help for yourself or those in your life who are struggling with signs of depression or anxiety, no matter their age or situation. 

At the Holiday Fund, we are proud to have seasoned partners we can point you to so you can begin your healing journey. Contact them and begin your journey to healing. 

With a donation to the Holiday Fund, you can support these organizations that are working tirelessly to improve the lives of children and adults in the New Jersey area. Will you donate today?

How One Man Dons a Helper Hat for Kids

Every December, the white door of Ridgewood resident Jim Gibney’s garage opens to reveal a treasure trove: over 200 donated gifts, wrapped and tied with bows, packed in bags, ready to bring joy to children with special needs.

You can call Jim the “Chief Elf” for Youth Consultation Service (YCS), just one of the ELEVEN charities that the Greater Newark Holiday Fund supports.

Since 2012, Jim and his wife Cheryl have participated in the annual YCS gift drive. They enlist scores of friends and relatives to donate toys, books, and games for the children of YCS.

How Jim’s YCS Involvement Began

Jim became involved with YCS at a charity dance at In the Spotlight at Waldwick, in which his children danced. He started off as a mentor at the YCS-affiliated Holley House in Hackensack. 

When he heard about the gift drive initiative, he immediately knew it was his calling.

He saw YCS kids as no different than his own, only that they had “been thrown a curveball that’s a little hard to hit.” And he wanted to help them.

He began cold-emailing anybody that he knew in any capacity for gifts and donations. Classmates from elementary school and middle school, remote Facebook friends – nobody was off-limits. He even enlisted his boss!

And each year, the number of gifts multiply.

They overflow from Jim’s garage into his kitchen and dining room, snaking through the hallways. Every gift is tagged with a child’s name who the donor has previously met. 

The gifts are then transported to the YCS facility and personally delivered to the children.

The Motivation for Donating Time and Resources

To know that what he is doing goes directly towards the happiness of a child is what drives Jim. “Charity is local, that’s what’s so special about it,” he says.

No matter how much you give or when you give, you should be confident that your donation brightens the lives of people in your community. 

That’s where the Greater Newark Holiday Fund comes in.

Your gift is multiplied ELEVEN TIMES to support all the charities that make up the Holiday Fund alliance. 

Somewhere in New Jersey, there’s a child, adult, parent, or senior who has a reason to smile all because of your donation.

There aren’t any qualifications to become a helper like Jim. You just need compassion for the people around you.

With just a couple clicks you can partner with the Holiday Fund by donating to support communities in New Jersey.