Monmouth Mobile Home Park Brings Area Children to Target for Holiday Shopping Treat
On Sunday, Dec. 15, Monmouth Mobile Home Park took 25 children from South Brunswick, N.J. on a shopping trip they’ll not soon forget.
Dan Mandell, manager of the mobile home park, and his wife Keri, a former learning consultant, team up each year to deliver merry Christmases to families in need.
“The kids come from our schools. School employees and social services help identify the right kids. The nice thing is that it isn’t only the families who are long-term struggling, but some families that are just going through a rough patch. This may be the first time they’ve not been able to have a nice Christmas for their kids and we get to help with that,” Dan Mandell said.
“The schools help us get partnered with families who are trying to grind and to do things without asking for help,” he said. “Since they aren’t asking, we are able to surprise them with a happy holiday.”
Monmouth Mobile Home Park began the tradition of giving back eight years ago with Keri Mandell’s father Arthur Roedel, during the year the Mandells were learning how to take over the family business.
A Look at the Beginning
Recalling the first year of this effort to give back, Dan Mandell said it all started with a simple Toys R Us commercial featuring a busload of kids going to the toy store.
“We did start it with a bus and Toys R Us, but since the store’s closing, we’ve switched to Target where each child gets to spend $175 of their own gifted money for whatever they’d like.”
The kids meet up at the New Jersey mobile home park and have breakfast with residents before loading into cars to hit the aisles.
“Many of these kids have never been toy shopping,” Dan Mandell said. “They know their holidays won’t be happy, and to see the joy on their faces is the real gift. They want to buy their siblings and parents something to spread that joy. They’ve never been greedy, and that’s always stuck with me.”
More than Toys
When recounting more memories of the terrific community event, Dan Mandell went quiet for just a couple of moments.
“The second year we did this we had a child who had a lot of medical needs. He was in foster care and had never had a real Christmas. It was so amazing to see him go into the toy aisles and be able to pick things out for himself,” he said. “To him, the gesture was so meaningful. That is something I will never forget–how much it changed his view on things and how happy and grateful he was for someone else to have thought of him and offered help.”
Dan and his family now run Monmouth since the passing of his father-in-law. With the help of his wife, her brother Mike Roedel, and sister Pamela Roedel, the family focuses on serving the community and building a place where people will be proud to live.
“We are not corporate-run. We interact with our residents and try our hardest to make sure people know that everyone has their own personal story and struggle, so we try to help wherever we can,” Dan Mandell said. “This Christmas shopping spree is a way for us to try to give back to our local community. We donate money to local organizations and that is important, but we wanted a personal way to connect directly to kids and families of our town to make an impact.”
‘If every company could just do something’
And an impact they have made. Indeed, as of this year, the Mandell family and Monmouth Mobile Home Park residents have treated 200 local families with the joy of a very merry Christmas.
“If every company could just do something small, we’d all be so much better off,” Dan Mandell said.
“We recognize that our park may just be a stepping stone for some people,” he said. “Anyone can live in our park; we have families, young people, and retirees. We love to see people finding freedom from big city small apartments and take a step up to own something that is their own on the next step of their journey.”
Monmouth Mobile Home Park has been a family-friendly community serving its residents at 4017 US Route 1, Monmouth Junction, NJ for more than 50 years.