Every family has its holiday traditions, and for ours, it’s just not Christmas without the Daytop holiday brunch. Daytop New Jersey is an outpatient and residential treatment center for adolescents in Mendham, NJ, delivering comprehensive substance abuse treatment and education. My dad is a volunteer and in his position has had a close up view of the lives changed by Daytop.
It truly is a remarkable place, where kids start out kicking and screaming, denying there’s a problem and trying to beat the system, and eventually come to realize the people there are trying to love them and help them turn their lives around. These are ordinary kids, kids like mine and yours, who end up in the unfortunate web of addiction. Daytop is special in that the program works with not only the adolescent, but the family system, and also makes continuing his or her education a high priority.
At the brunch each year, the gym is decorated floor to ceiling, and the room packed with supporters, family members, program graduates, police officers, prosecutors, and politicians, all there to show encouragement and support for the program and residents. Residents serve brunch and the highlight of the morning is the choir. Taking a look at these kids, they’re probably not ones you’d expect to see singing in your average high school choir, but boy do these kids sing their hearts out. They perform the usual array of Christmas tunes like ‘Rudolph” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” and a couple of non-holiday songs. Those are the ones that get to me. Knowing the struggles these kids have overcome to be where they are, hearing them sing songs like “I Believe I Can Fly” or “I Can See Clearly Now” moves me to tears every time.
During executive director James Curtin’s remarks, we typically hear a brief acknowledgement of Novartis for underwriting the cost of breakfast. But this year, we heard just how much Novartis does support and believe in Daytop’s mission from Novartis Vice President and Daytop board member Robert Ackerman. Not only does Novartis help out with the brunch, the company sends a crew to work on the building on their annual Community Partnership Day – a day where employees can go out into the community and volunteer in the name of Novartis. According to Mr. Ackerman, Daytop is such a popular option with employees they actually have to turn volunteers away.
Novartis also encourages the charitable endeavors of employees through its “Dollars for Doers” program for New Jersey employees. Through the program, when a participating employee donates his time volunteering or serving on a non-profit board, Novartis makes a donation to the qualifying charity, according to the amount of hours and type of service. In addition Novartis offers matching monetary gifts to charity, sends volunteers monthly to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, and has a corporate mentoring program for minority teens. What a beautiful example of a company giving back to the community. There are many other corporations like that in the US- maybe even the one you work for. I’d love to hear about your company’s philanthropic endeavors. It’s a great way to multiply the community work you may already be doing and an encouragement to all of us that we can make a difference.