When Paula Hurley put out word that she and her husband were looking to help those in need for Christmas, she never expected the kind of response she received.

“It’s overwhelming, it really is,” said Hurley, of Galloway Township.

When Hurley and her husband, Patrick, passed motels on the White Horse Pike, “you could see that there were actually families living there,” Hurley said. “You could see the bicycles on the balconies.”

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The Hurleys wanted to do something, so they asked if they could provide Thanksgiving meals. After asking friends on Facebook, soon there were people at her home “morning, noon and night,” she said. The Hurleys and their friends ended up serving hot meals to 80 people.

One motel in Absecon has a total of 26 children, Hurley said, so she went back and asked if she could help out with gifts for Christmas.

“We went to every room and asked, ‘What is the name of your child, what is the sex of your child, what do they want for Christmas?” Hurley said. “And they ask for simple toys — a Barbie, a doll, a book. So, so simple. One family with five kids, they have a 5-year-old who wants a doll. She’s been walking around with a can of peas dressed up, and that’s her doll.”

The response was “incredible,” Hurley said. “I can’t even begin to tell you the response from friends on Facebook,” she said. “My girlfriend in New York, she posted my post for her friends in New York, and people I don’t even know are sending gifts.”

One anonymous donor sent a collector’s edition doll from a boutique in California, she said.

Two new children just moved in Wednesday, and their requests weren’t for much more than the other children, she said.

“Books,” she said. “They ask for nothing, really.”

Now, the amount that has been collected would leave people “in shock.”

“We actually took a picture of 24 bags, big huge bags, on our couch in our living room, stuffed with toys and ready to be delivered on Christmas Eve,” Hurley said. “They’re sacks filled with clothes, and toys, and arts and crafts.”

The Hurleys have already received numerous offers of support to help on Christmas Eve. And though Patrick Hurley may not be able to make it, Santa Claus may show up in his place.

Hurley wanted to stress that the real heroes were the people who stepped up to donate and help.

“It was just my idea,” Hurley said. “But without all those people, this would never have happened. It’s very, very humbling. It changed me. I know it made me a better person. And hopefully, this just passes it on.”

Contact Steven Lemongello:



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