IRVINGTON — Sal Garcia just had to help Mary Reed.
This year alone, Irvington resident Reed, 60, single-handedly took in 13 foster children — many siblings, all under 12.
"She deserved to be rewarded," said Garcia, a 30-year-old real estate developer who saw Reed’s story in The Sunday Star-Ledger. "A person who takes in children like that — who aren’t even her own — is a special person. I didn’t want to just write a check. I wanted to do something bigger and more interesting."
And that he did.
The Elizabeth resident recently sold the property for a Dollar General store in Irvington, near Reed’s home. He contacted the business’s corporate office, which then donated $1,000 to the Greater Newark Holiday Fund.
But that wasn’t enough for Garcia. He also rounded up $500 in anonymous donations and bought five Dollar General gift cards. Then he enlisted Carlos Texeira, whose Burnet BBQ is next door to the dollar store, to provide a free dinner for Reed’s family.
Christine Orpilla, Reed’s Children’s Aid and Family Services case worker, told Reed the family had won a dinner at Burnet BBQ. Orpilla also obtained and passed to Garcia Christmas lists for Reed’s current foster kids. Garcia found every item, which included clothing and toys.
On Tuesday night, Reed and the children, a boy, 8, and two girls, 11 and 12, arrived for their barbecue dinner.
Garcia and a friend dressed as Santa gave the gifts to the kids and the gift cards to Reed.
Through tears, Reed said, "I am so grateful. It’s so nice of Sal to do this. It’s overwhelming to see the children’s faces."
Garcia said he provided the surprise, but Reed was
"A mother is the most important role model in a person’s life," he said. "For these kids to have a mother figure like Mary is truly amazing."
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