The Ocean County Business Association is Ocean County’s premier business networking group. However, that doesn’t mean it’s all about business. The 60+-member-strong organization of business owners and senior decision makers is also committed to giving back to the communities—through its non-profit arm called CAREing for Children (CFC).
Chaired by longtime OCBA member Clare Bojus, CFC’s primary purpose is to provide gifts for children at Christmastime. In 2015, the group handed out more than 3,000 toys through various agencies.
“The number of families we help is enormous,” says Bojus. The majority of toys are delivered through other agencies, including the Island Heights United Methodist Church, Preferred Behavioral Health, the Ocean County Sheriff’s Office, DYFS of Toms River, O.C.E.A.N. Inc., Providence House, Lakehurst police Department, Lakehurst First Aid Squad, Lakehurst VFW, Lakehurst Fleet Rescue, Beachwood and Pine Beach police, The Hope Center of Toms River, Seaside Park police and borough, and many individual families.
“The gifts are always unwrapped, so everyone can see what they are receiving,” explains Bojus. “We categorize them by age group, sex, baby or young adult,” she adds, “which helps the agencies tailor the gifts to their recipients.”
Bojus, who has chaired the charity for the past 15 years, says CFC started small and just kept growing. “In the ‘90s, Paul Losseff, our resident eyeglass and hearing-aid dispenser, suggested we each bring an unwrapped gift to our holiday party. After a few years, the pile of gifts became so large that Phil Brilliant, our environmental consultant, loaned us his truck and we began delivering gifts.”
Now CAREing for Children is a year-round endeavor. Bojus visits toy trade shows, where she orders thousands of toys at wholesale prices. They are delivered and housed at Bojus’s facility. She owns The Creative Basket, which supplies gift baskets for all occasions.
Every May, OCBA holds its biggest fundraiser of the year—a golf outing—and all proceeds go to CFC. In 2016 , the event raised more than $20,000 in its second year. “The rest of the donations are made up through the generosity of OCBA members throughout the year,” she adds.
CFC also supplies many food pantries in the area. “This started when one of our members was able to secure a large block of donated food,” explains Bojus. We now supplement donations with purchased goods and distribute them through St. Joseph’s Church in Toms River, St. Steven’s Church in Whiting, and Morning Star Presbyterian Church in Bayville.
“It’s been a very rewarding experience,” she concludes. “It’s wonderful to put a smile on a child’s face and food in his or her stomach. But it’s also wonderful to see the generosity and commitment of my fellow members.”