HAMILTON TOWNSHIP — Makayla Dreby, 3, of Galloway Township received a membership to the Jersey Shore Children’s Museum in the Hamilton Mall as a Christmas gift. But she won't be able to use it, because the museum closed a week later.

“I am really upset that it is closing,” Makayla’s mother, Melissa, said. “It’s very sad. She was here for a couple of hours recently and really enjoyed it. She would run around to all the different areas to play.”

The museum provided opportunities for youngsters to learn about occupations and to interact wearing outfits and handling equipment used in the professions.

Jersey Shore Children’s Museum President Matt Gilliano said the museum closed for good Dec. 31, because donations had dried up. There was not enough money to keep it going, he said.

People who bought gift certificates were contacted and offered refunds.

“It was very disappointing to have to close after 20 years of serving the community,” he said. “Donations and sponsors just stopped giving over three years ago. We had different fundraisers but never received more than $1,300 at each event.”

Gilliano said the museum was once a popular site for children’s birthday parties, but other businesses, including a new trampoline park nearby, took away much of that business.

He said he was grateful for corporate sponsors, including South Jersey Industries and Jersey Shore Credit Union for their support.

“I want to thank those that did help and support us and our board of trustees for volunteering over the years,” he said.

The nonprofit museum opened at its original location on Fire Road in Egg Harbor Township in 1998. It relocated to the Shore Mall, and when that mall closed moved to the Hamilton Mall, first into a multilevel 4,000-square-foot space and then to its final 1,200-square-foot site.

Gilliano thanked Hamilton Mall management.

“They have been great,” he said. “They donated space and charged us next to nothing for rent.”

Mari Dalbora Dattolo has served as a member of the museum’s board of trustees.

"Milestones are always emotional,” she said. “It's not the outcome we would have hoped for, but we wanted to make a difference, and I think we have."

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