Can Happiness Actually Be Bought?

Most of us can’t even remember the first time we heard the phrase, “Money can’t buy happiness” because we’ve been hearing it our whole lives. It’s been imprinted on our brains by well-meaning adults and leaders who’ve taught us to search for joy in places other than our earnings and possessions. And we agree, right?

What if science in the 21st century has proven that mantra untrue? What if there was data to back up the notion that resources and assets can, in fact, alter your mood and even your potential? Well, it has. 

It turns out that money actually can buy happiness.  The question is, how? 

For those with an eye for “stuff,” this sounds like great news. Should we all head to the local gas station and buy lottery tickets? Not if you’re looking for happiness. We’ve all heard the “riches to rags” stories from lottery winners who, years after achieving the dream and winning a treasure, lament their lost relationships and unexpected debt. Momentary happiness turns into confusion and discontent. 

Detailed in the fascinating TEDxCambridge talk by Michael Norton, research is shared to prove that spending money can result in happiness. Norton turns the idea on its head when he reveals this secret: Spending money results in happiness when the money is spent on someone else. This was proven true on a personal, professional, and even a recreational level. 

Norton and his fellow researchers gave money to students at the University of British Columbia– with some instructed to spend the money on themselves and others instructed to spend it on others. The results were consistent: those who bought something for themselves or pocketed the money weren’t any happier than before the experiment, but those who gave to others and engaged in prosocial behavior were happier.

When the researchers worked with teams of professionals, the same results were found: those who spent money on their co-workers were happier than those who spent the same amount on themselves. But an unexpected benefit was discovered: after the pro-social experience of giving to others, the teams actually performed better! The return on investment was staggeringly different depending on the spending direction, with teams spending prosocially seeing a 17 times higher ROI than teams who invested personally. Happier, connected teams achieved more success.

Another important finding was in the amount of money spent correlated to the happiness experienced. The data showed the specific way the money is spent and the amount of money isn’t nearly as important as the fact that money was spent.

“You can do small, trivial things and still get the benefits, ” says Norton. 

Finally, the research was tested among a group of intramural athletes: a dodgeball team. Did the data go out the window in a totally new context?

 Once again the data was consistent, with teammates achieving more happiness and even performing together on the court after the giving experience. 

How can your team benefit from this surprising research? 

  • Find ways to give to one another, building community (and success!) with your prosocial behavior. Pool your resources and find a charity to benefit from your giving. 
  • Choose a recipient as a group, looking to your organization’s mission and your team’s passion to direct your giving, or you can choose a new recipient every time a donation is made. 

The important thing is to give together! 

During the winter months, agencies with food banks and crisis support services need our help more than ever. Several of our agencies have food banks, and support of The Holiday Fund supports them. Click here to give now.

Can Money Buy Happiness? This Guy Says YES.

As someone who supports The Holiday Fund, we know you’re familiar with the positivity you feel after donating to a cause in which you believe. 

But did you know that there is scientific research that explains the happiness we feel when we give

Watch this incredible TED Talk Below.

Still Growing The Family

As February comes to a close, we are pleased to announce that we are on track to wrap up the 2019 Giving Season with $345,000 donated to the Holiday Fund! 

We posted an update of donors in January, and our family of donors keeps growing! It’s just been a little over a month since our last donor thank you, and we wanted to take a moment to add our new donors to our Thank You.

Because of your generosity, members of our community have more access to 

  • Eldercare
  • Children’s Services
  • Victim Recovery Services 
  • Mental Health Support
  • Food
  • Clothing
  • Shelter
  • and so much more

Thank you so much for helping us make a difference in Greater Newark.

February Update

Santa’s World Tour Included a Stop In New Jersey

For over 80 years, the Greater Newark Holiday Fund (GNHF) has provided services of care, hope and kindness to Northern New Jersey. Even the most impoverished and marginalized in the community find hope all year long thanks to a network of ten social service agencies in northern New Jersey who are best-in-class and pre-screened. Every donation is accounted for and filtered through their caring stewardship.

Over the years, The Holiday Fund has contributed nearly $12 million toward the betterment of thousands of families in the community. Annual donations have exceeded $300,000 a year; a tribute to the civic generosity of the people of New Jersey.

Santa Visits Again

During the 2019 holiday season, The Holiday Fund partnered with McCarter & English, LLP to brighten the holidays for nine students in need.

The McCarter & English Dear Santa Elves have been making children’s wishes come true in the city of Newark for 20 years, serving hundreds of youth in need by partnering with a local school district and providing holiday gifts for students who may not receive any during the holiday season.

This year, Santa asked GNHF to help the Wilson Avenue School (K-8) in the Ironbound Section of Newark that has an abundance of students that faced the potential of a holiday season without any gifts. GNHF and the team at McCarter & English worked with the same Chief Elf/Case Worker, Sonia Echevarria, who previously made wishes come true at Fourteenth Avenue School.

Santa signed an Affidavit confirming the children were on the Nice List (notarized, of course). Chief Elf Echevarria and the Elf Teachers assisted children in creating cards with their wish selections: an item of clothing and a toy for each student. Cards were then selected by the elves for shopping, wrapping, and labeling. Then came the careful job of loading the presents onto Santa’s sleigh for distribution at Wilson Avenue School.

There were many humbling and amazing moments, but nothing compared to the excitement and joy on the faces of the students who were holding in their hands the gifts that, previously, were just a wish on a card.

As planned, Santa (with his joyful helpers at the Greater Newark Holiday Fund and McCarter & English) managed to do it once again, and the holiday season was made brighter for nine New Jersey students.

Our Partner Organizations Serve All Year Long

Don’t forget — GNHF’s impact doesn’t just happen during the holiday season. The partnerships with affiliate organizations like Catholic Charities of Newark, Children’s Aid and Family Services, Urban League of Essex County and more, are strong and active all year long.

Your help is needed, not just during the holidays, but every day. Contribute to the important work of the GNHF Partner Organizations by giving online today.

January Update

Your Donation Makes a Difference

The 2019 Holiday Season is behind us, but we are still aglow with gratitude for the generosity of the hundreds of individual donors that donated to help make a difference in New Jersey. We could not have accomplished all we did during the 2019 Holiday Season without the help of every single donor.

Every dollar counts. In fact, if you haven’t given yet, it’s not too late. You can still make a difference where it counts by donating today at

Thank you, again, to our 2019 Donors. We are so proud to serve New Jersey alongside you and our ten partner agencies.

Fresh Air Fund helps a young boy experience the outdoors

fresh air fund
Donations to the Greater Newark Holiday Fund can help to support a child not only during the holidays, but also throughout the year

Valerie is a single mother of two children whose eldest child was eligible for camp based on his age. The mother reached out to the Fresh Air Fund for a campership. Valerie never experienced camping but her son always wanted that experience for himself.

The Fresh Air Fund provides young people with an outdoor experience.

fresh air fund scholarship
The Fresh Air Fund provides young people with an outdoor experience.

She wanted her child to become more independent and felt that camping was the ideal activity. She knew that this experience would give him many opportunities that she could not. The mom’s income was meager and barely meeting the household needs. There was no extra money for outside activities for the children.

A scholarship was granted for her son to attend summer camp and he was selected to attend a residential camp for two weeks. A huge smile came upon his face as he was anticipating what camping would be like.  

The overnight experience gave him a sense of independence. While at camp, he interacted with other children, engaged in activities, was very energetic and never lost his smile. Upon his return from camp, his mom noticed how independent her son had  become. The mother is ecstatic.

The fresh air, the outdoors and various activities had such a positive effect on her son. He can’t stop talking about his experience. The parent was very thankful for the Fresh Air Fund. Valerie was thankful for the opportunities and the experience that her son received.

Donations to the Greater Newark Holiday Fund can help to support a child not only during the holidays, but also throughout the year.

Centenarian gets help from Catholic Charities to save her home

Rosanne Estwanick of Cranford meets regularly with a caregiver clinician in the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Newark New Jersey complimentary Caregiver Counseling Program. This program offers individual caregiver counseling to help alleviate the emotional distress (anger, frustration, guilt, isolation and depression) that many caregivers of elderly individuals experience.

Rosanne cares for her mother, Rose, who is 107 years old and very frail. During a recent meeting with Caregiver Clinician Margaret McGroary, MSW, LSW, Rosanne shared that her mother was going to lose her Cranford home. Rosanne grew up in this home, which the family has lived in since 1947.  Now, they were in danger of losing the house because the two women were unable to pay the property back taxes.  Rosanne lost her job at AIG and assumed her role as a caregiver to her mother full-time. Both she and her mother live on a fixed income.  

McGroary helped Rosanne organize a GoFundMe page and share her story with a variety of media outlets. Thanks to the attention the story received, Rosanne and her mother were able to raise over $22,000 toward back taxes.

Unfortunately, many caregivers face difficult decisions when caring for their loved ones. Most are unaware of resources and support available to help them. Many need help with estate planning and other paid services that are just out of reach due to the high cost for services. For Rosanne, saving her mother’s house has taken a huge burden off her shoulders, but she is already concerned about next year’s taxes as the house is located in Cranford where, like many of the quaint towns in New Jersey, property taxes are high.

The Caregiver Counseling Program gives caregivers the support they need emotionally while also helping to connect them to the many services available to the elderly in Union County.

Helping Young Mothers Thrive

Jaclyn had been working full-time, but still struggling to make ends meet. And despite her best efforts, she was evicted from her apartment.

Jaclyn CAFS 2019
Jaclyn received help from Children’s Aid and Family Services.

With a 3-year-old daughter to care for and nowhere to turn, she found a lifeline at Zoe’s Place, a program run by Children’s Aid and Family Services. A supportive home for pregnant teenagers and teen mothers and their children, Zoe’s Place provides assistance and guidance so individuals can access educational opportunities, job training, life and parenting skills, health care and employment as well as child care and individual mentoring.

Zoe’s Place provides free child care, and the young women who live in the home must either attend school or work full-time. In pursuit of a career path, 21-year-old Jaclyn went back to school to study skincare and makeup application. She enrolled her daughter, a bright, sociable child, in preschool, where she is thriving.

Jaclyn graduated from cosmetology school and is now a licensed esthetician. She recently began working full-time at a spa. She also is a certified makeup artist and promotes her services on social media with the goal of eventually owning her own salon.Jaclyn is grateful to have found Zoe’s Place and for the opportunities it has provided.

“I want my child to know she is safe and to have a good life. I want her to appreciate the gift we have been given and understand that not everyone has help like this,” she said.

It is because of the generous donations to the Greater Newark Holiday Fund that Children’s Aid and Family Services is able to provide housing and intensive support services for teenage mothers and their babies.

Visit the Greater Newark Holiday Fund on Twitter or Facebook at

This story originally appeared on

Newark Day Center works to get student help he needs to achieve

He is currently undergoing an Individual Education Program/Plan (IEP), which is a written plan that describes the programs and special services a student is required to follow in order to be successful.

The process began after his teacher, Ms. Osborne, reported that Kyle would wander off during large or small group activities. However, he would gravitate toward puzzles, the block and discovery areas of the classroom. When asked cognitive questions he would sit and smile yet never communicate. As time went on, Kyle started to lash out when it came to directives in the classroom.

Ms. Osborne kept anecdotal notes on his actions and she brought her concern to the family workers and the social worker. As a team they communicated with Kyle’s parents and encouraged them to speak with the child study team of Newark Public School. As the IEP progressed, they recommended evaluations that included educational, speech and occupational therapy assessments and an autism consultation.

A variety of therapists were assigned to help, including a personal aide to work with Kyle in the classroom. Accommodations that worked best for Kyle included sitting close to the teacher, prompting, and reminders of rules and routine throughout the day. He began to show progress, which made the teacher and his parents very happy. His tantrums were lessened as therapists, his parents and teacher worked to help him. In time, Ms. Osborne reported that Kyle was improving more every day. He began to communicate and interact more.

He sits in the front with Ms. Osborne as she teaches group activities, which helps him participate in activities.

The IEP process was a success as it helped Kyle and his family prepare for grade school. Those at the Newark Day Center are happy they were able to help get Kyle on track with his learning and child development.   

To make a donation to the Greater Newark Holiday Fund, visit

Family Service Bureau helps Essex man get his life back together

Like many teenagers, Sean began experimenting with marijuana and became a frequent user; however, it was not until his late 20s that he began using heroin. Around this time, Sean became involved in a relationship that turned abusive. The relationship came to a sudden end when Sean was arrested after defending himself from his abuser.

Upon his release from prison, he was referred to the Family Service Bureau of Newark for substance abuse treatment.

While the transition back into society was not easy, Sean did not use heroin again. Instead, he actively participated in his treatment, attending groups and individual counseling since early this year. During his time at the Family Service Bureau of Newark, Sean has found stable housing and regained employment and he now works to serve his community.

Though there is a strong stigma against counseling within the African American community, Sean has been open to the support and growth that counseling has provided for him. Sean has rebuilt his relationships with his family members and friends and he has started to develop a better understanding of what a healthy relationship looks like.

During his time in counseling, he has faced some recent losses, which has been challenging for him to cope with. Despite these losses, Sean continues to find ways to be a positive person and maintains his recovery. He has been able to see the benefits of attending counseling as he has learned to use it as a form of support in order to prevent himself from relapsing.

To make a donation to the Greater Newark Holiday Fund, visit