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Long Beach Christmas Angel supports those in need

Local nonprofit set to hold its 20th annual fundraiser on Dec. 7 at the Allegria Hotel

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“It’s the first big holiday party of the year in town, and we have a tremendous amount of support from the community,” said Long Beach Christmas Angel President Johanna Sofield of the non-profit organization’s upcoming annual holiday fundraiser. “We want everyone to have a great time, and to properly honor the volunteers and people who have made a difference.”

The Long Beach Christmas Angel is set to hold its 20th annual Holiday Fundraiser on Dec. 7, at 7:30 p.m. at the Allegria Hotel, which will feature an open bar, food, a live band and DJ, dancing, raffles and a $10,000 grand cash prize.

Proceeds from the event benefit the Long Beach-based non-profit organization, which has become a fixture in the community and is dedicated to improving the lives of families who are experiencing financial difficulties within the Long Beach School District, including victims of Hurricane Sandy.

The majority of the organization’s fundraising is done at its annual fundraiser, one of the largest events in town that attracts hundreds of supporters and honors outstanding members of the community. This year’s honorees include Bridgeworks, R & J Construction Corporation, Dr. Neil Hadpawat, of City MD of Long Beach, and Long Beach Middle School Principal Paul Romanelli.

“The Christmas Angel represents the compassion and diversity that exists in Long Beach,” Sofield said. “For people who experience a loss, death, cancer treatment and more, they experience how life can change in a minute. The Christmas Angel is a valuable resource for everyone in town. We’ve grown as the needs of the community have.”

Sofield explained that what started as a holiday gathering at her home years ago — at which toys were collected from guests to donate to charity — has since expanded into one of the largest charitable foundations in Long Beach. The Long Beach Christmas Angel has donated more than $2 million since its inception, she said.

Sofield noted that the organization helps low income and middle-class families experiencing a variety of hardships, and that they’ve received overwhelming responses of gratitude and appreciation. “The majority of people we help, we help quietly,” she said. “It’s difficult for families to admit they’re having a difficult time financially.”

A focus of the organization, Sofield said, has been working closely with the Long Beach school district to identify students with a need. “Sometimes, it’s challenges at home, sometimes it’s specific to testing and needing educational support outside of school,” she said.

Overall, Sofield said, the goal is to continue heading the organization’s mission of making a difference for families in need, and she credited the town’s business community as a main reason for the non-profit’s success.

“We have amazing partnerships with business owners,” she said. “If they didn’t support us with raffle prizes and donations, we would not be able to do what we do.”

Her hope for the fundraiser, she said, is that it unites the community, all in the spirit of giving back to those who need it most.

“Every year, there are 30 to 40 people there who we have assisted,” she said. “Our volunteers are always current and past students. They want to be a part of it. They see old friends or they meet new friends. This is about helping our neighbors.”

For more information, visit www.longbeachchristmasangel.com.