Regina Herz wanted to stay active and give back to her community after her retirement from the New Jersey Division of Pensions and Benefits.

The conduit through which she achieves that is a partnership called the True Spirit Coalition, which has the entire Brigantine community banding together for humanitarian causes throughout the year, with efforts peaking during the holiday season.

“After I retired I began volunteering, and working with the True Spirit Coalition in particular is something I really enjoy,” said Herz. 

“I like it but it's a commitment. It's not like a full-time job, but it's every week throughout the year, not just during the holidays,” she said.

The Brigantine Community Presbyterian Church serves as a coalition headquarters of sorts and its food pantry, which provides staple groceries every Wednesday throughout the year to anyone who signs up for membership, and in a confidential manner.

During the holidays, the True Spirit Coalition all-volunteer staff goes into redline mode, receiving assistance from all Brigantine civic groups, city services and faith-based organizations in an effort to make sure those who reach out for assistance receive it.

On Dec. 20, the TSC, which was founded in 1992, will distribute nearly 250 holiday dinners to less fortunate families and individuals, getting assistance with delivery from Brigantine's police, fire and public works departments. Most of what is given away is donated, but much is also purchased from the Community FoodBank of New Jersey Southern Branch in bulk at special rates.

Along with Community Presbyterian, volunteer support is provided by Temple Beth Shalom Synagogue, St. Thomas the Apostle Roman Catholic Church, the Knights of Columbus, Lions Club, Elks Lodge, and Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion posts. 

The group receives year-round support from the Brigantine Chamber of Commerce, Cultural Arts Commission, and the Brigantine Schools Board of Education and PTA.

“All civic and religious groups have been huge supporters, and we've received a lot of donations from many of Brigantine's second-home owners – people who aren't even here but heard about what we do and mailed in checks,” Herz said.

“That was very nice, and the Crossroads Youth Group (of Community Presbyterian) hosted a food drive, and you would not have believed how much they brought back. We asked them to round up staple items that we use to stock our shelves like tuna, pasta, sauces, cereals, and the amount they brought back was unreal.”

The group got an unexpected bonus from the Brigantine Fire Department during a recent Acme promotion. The supermarket gave away free turkeys for minimum purchase amounts during the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, and the fire department gave a slew of birds to the TSC.

“The fire department works 24-hour shifts, and since they make all their meals at the firehouse they tend to buy a lot in bulk,” Herz said. “They must have given us a couple hundred dollars worth of turkeys.”

The Acme also pitches in.

“Every week throughout the year the Acme gives us fruits, veggies, salads, breads, cakes, meat, produce – things that they might have a little extra of, or things in the refrigerated sections that may be getting close to their expiration dates,” she said. “It's all still perfectly good, you just have to use it quickly, which is never a problem for us.”

The coalition works with the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves Toys for Tots program during the holidays to provide toys for underprivileged or low-income families. It also helps raise money for the less fortunate by selling items such as gently used clothing and household wares in good condition through the Community Presbyterian thrift store, and accepts donations of nonperishable food items, sanitary and personal hygiene items year-round.

To make a donation, stop by Brigantine Presbyterian Church at 1501 W. Brigantine Ave., call 609-266-7942, or visit brigchurch.org.

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