NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — As New Jersey’s second wave of COVID-19 sets in, the usual holiday plans and wish lists loom even larger.

Newark has been hit especially hard with more than 700 COVID deaths and more than 1,800 cases.

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The line outside the Mercy House on Clinton Street stretched around the block on Friday as parents and grandparents waited to pick up donated gifts to take home with them for Christmas in a year unlike any other.

“You at least try to give them something like a Christmas to look forward to,” Newark resident Monica Smith said.

“I’m coming to get my four grandchildren some toys. I’m out of work right now,” Newark resident Liza Cummings said.

Many in line told CBS2’s Meg Baker they lost their jobs due to the pandemic. It’s sent them to places like Mercy House, run by the Archdiocese of Newark, not only for toys but for food and warm clothes.

“It’s a necessity and it’s needed. It’s very well needed. Everyone needs some help,” one woman said.


Cheryl Riley is the director of Mercy House and the Archdiocese of Newark’s respect life office.

“We’ll probably have over 200 families that we’ll be helping today,” Riley said. “It’s a much greater need. We see that even throughout the regular days we’re open.”

Organizers say donations were actually up this year. People felt the need to give thousands of toys — and wrapping paper.

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Ten-year-old Caniya Cooper is a volunteer.

“Christmas morning is a special day, so kids expect to have gifts and stuff, and if they don’t have gifts and stuff, they’re gonna be sad, so that’s why we do this,” she said.

With schools all virtual, parents are worried.

“Everybody is not literate as far as, like, the laptops,” one mother said. “Basically, I’m trying to wait for them to open back up the schools because it’s kind of hard for me.”

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“Our children are experiencing a lot of depression. The parents as well, they need help,” Newark resident Cathryn Cha said.

She added we don’t want our children left behind. We need our children to go forward, even in this pandemic.

The Mercy House is open on Tuesdays and Fridays for food, clothing and other services, including job searches.

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