Alexandra Shuster, of Margate, was 12 years old when she first collected toys, stuffed animals and other items for children in the Pediatric Care Center at Shore Medical Center as a Bat Mitzvah project.
It made her feel so good she just kept doing it. Now 21, she made her latest delivery just before Thanksgiving, during a trip home from Penn State University where she is studying psychology and history.
"I just start up again as soon as I'm done," she said of her process. "I'll get things all year on sale, and I buy a lot of coloring books and crayons. A lot of smaller businesses donate things."
It all goes into the guest room closet at her family home, at least at first.
"By the time I'm ready to deliver everything, it's all over the room," she said.
Businesses that have donated said they like giving back to their community and they admire Shuster's willingness to continue her project each year, even now that she's in college.
The pediatrics unit at Shore Medical Center includes patients up to 17 years old, so items for teens are as welcomed as the coloring books.
Esthetica Salon and Spa, in Northfield, has donated a gift bag of nail polish, shampoos and conditioners for the past several years.
"(Alexandra) and her mom (Adrienne) are longtime clients," assistant manager Lisa Jacobi-Klein said. "And this is a nice way for us to give back and help patients feel a little better."
"It's just such a nice thing she does," said Karen Greer, manager of Barbara's Clothing in Linwood, where owner Barbara Spolksy has has donated shirts and sweaters to the project.
"We are primarily a women's store, but we also have some trendier items that young girls like," Greer said.
Annemarie Guerrieri, nurse manager at Shore Medical Center's emergency and pediatric units, said the items are given out all year as patients arrive.
"When they come in, we have something to give them," she said. "Their faces just light up. We'll even have things for the moms. It helps take their minds off of what's going on."
Guerrieri said they can always use crayons and coloring books. Shuster, who is also involved in a dance marathon for pediatric cancer research at Penn State, said she is ready to start collecting items for next year. Contact Diane D'Amico:
Want to help?
Anyone interested in donating items to Alexandra Shuster can reach her at AJS5843@gmail.com.